Debris from a massive Chinese rocket fell back to Earth on Saturday over the Indian Ocean, space officials from the US and China confirmed according to a report by news agency Reuters.
The US Space Command said that the Long March 5B (CZ-5B) rocket re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approximately 12:45 pm EDT Saturday (16:45 GMT). “We refer you to the PRC for further details on the reentry’s technical aspects such as potential debris dispersal+ impact location,” it tweeted.
— Nazri sulaiman (@nazriacai) July 30, 2022
NASA said Beijing had not shared the “specific trajectory information” needed to know where possible debris might fall, news agency Reuters reported.
It remains unclear what path the debris from the booster might take, US Space Command said on Twitter on Saturday, referring questions to the Chinese government. China’s spaceflight agency said wreckage of the 23-metric-ton (25.4 tons) Long March 5B hit Earth over the sea in the southwestern Philippines with the “vast majority” of the debris burning up upon reentry, according to a brief statement that was criticized by a US official.
#USSPACECOM can confirm the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Long March 5B (CZ-5B) re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approx 10:45 am MDT on 7/30. We refer you to the #PRC for further details on the reentry’s technical aspects such as potential debris dispersal+ impact location.
— U.S. Space Command (@US_SpaceCom) July 30, 2022
Meanwhile, the Chinese Manned Space Agency insisted most of the debris had burned up on re-entry over the Sulu Sea, between the island of Borneo and the Philippines, according to the New York Times, which cited updates on the social networking site Weibo.
“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, as reported by Reuters. “Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth.”
The Long March 5B blasted off July 24 to deliver a laboratory module to the new Chinese space station under construction in orbit, marking the third flight of China’s most powerful rocket since its maiden launch in 2020. Fragments of another Chinese Long March 5B landed on the Ivory Coast in 2020, damaging several buildings in that West African nation, though no injuries were reported.
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment, Reuters said. China said earlier this week it would closely track the debris but said it posed little risk to anyone on the ground.