Chinese rocket: Rocket debris re-entered atmosphere over Indian Ocean, US Space Command says

China’s 23-ton Long March 5B rocket, which delivered a new module to its space station, lifted off from Hainan Island at 2:22 p.m. local time on Sunday, July 24, and the module docked with success at the Chinese orbital outpost. The rocket had since made an uncontrolled descent into Earth’s atmosphere – marking the third time China has been accused of failing to properly handle space debris from its rocket stage.

“No other country is leaving these 20-ton objects in orbit and coming back out of control,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday afternoon.

In a statement Saturday on Twitter, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote China “did not share specific information about the trajectory” when the rocket fell back to Earth.

“All space nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to enable reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy vehicles, such as the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss of life and property,” Nelson said.

“This is essential for the responsible use of space and for keeping people safe here on Earth,” he added.

In a statement, China’s Manned Space Agency said the remains of the rocket reentered the atmosphere around 12:55 a.m. Sunday Beijing time, or around 12:55 a.m. ET Saturday.

The agency added that most of the remains burned in the re-entry process over the Sulu Sea, which lies between the island of Borneo and the Philippines.

“What we really want to know is if any pieces ended up on the ground,” McDowell told CNN. “It may take a little longer for the reports to filter.”

Video posted online appears to show what experts believe is footage of the rocket booster burning in the atmosphere, but CNN cannot confirm its veracity.

Vanessa Julan, a resident of Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, shared a video with CNN that shows what appears to be burning rocket debris.

She told CNN she shot the footage around 12:50 p.m. local time, the same time as Beijing.

CNN’s Yong Xiong contributed to this report.

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