A Chinese rocket fell to Earth, but Beijing did not share the information, NASA said

A Long March-5B Y3 rocket carrying the Wendian Laboratory Module to China’s space station on July 24, 2022, from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan Province, China. CHINA DAILY BY REUTERS/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) – A Chinese rocket came back to Earth in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, but Beijing did not share the “specific trajectory information” needed to know where the possible debris would fall, NASA said.

The US Space Command said the Long March 5B rocket re-entered the Indian Ocean at approximately 12:45 p.m. EDT Saturday (1645 GMT), but referred questions to China about “technical aspects of the re-entry, such as the impact site where debris could spread”.

“All spaceflight nations should follow established best practices and share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensuring the safety of people on Earth.”

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Social media users in Malaysia posted a video of what appeared to be rocket debris.

Aerospace Corp., a government-funded nonprofit research center near Los Angeles, said it would be irresponsible to allow the rocket’s entire main core — 22.5 tons (about 48,500 pounds) — to return to Earth in an uncontrolled reentry.

Earlier this week, analysts said the rocket body would disintegrate as it plunged into the atmosphere, but was large enough to survive re-ejection of numerous particles in a 2,000 km (1,240 mi) long area. (44 mi) wide.

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The Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately comment. China said earlier this week it would closely monitor the debris, but said it posed little risk to anyone on the ground.

The Long March 5B erupted on July 24

Fragments of another Chinese Long March 5B landed in Ivory Coast in 2020, damaging several buildings in that West African country, although there were no injuries.

By contrast, the United States and other spacefaring nations typically spend extra to design their rockets to avoid large, uncontrolled re-entries—a fact often observed when large parts of the NASA space station Skylab fell off. In 1979 it entered orbit and landed in Australia.

Last year, NASA and others accused China of being opaque after the Beijing government remained silent on the estimated debris trajectory, or re-entry window, of its last Long March rocket flight in May 2021. read more

The wreckage of the plane landed safely in the Indian Ocean.

(The story has been rewritten to remove the extra word ‘said’ in paragraph 2)

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Reporting by David Shepherdson Editing by Alistair Bell

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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