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China Rocket Falls Safely But NASA Says it Was Kept in Dark

US space agency NASA said Beijing had not shared the “specific trajectory information” needed to know where possible debris might fall


China rocket plunge
A Long March-5B Y3 rocket, carrying the Wentian lab module for China's space station under construction, takes off from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan province, China July 24, 2022. China Daily via Reuters

 

A Chinese rocket plunged safely to Earth and into the Indian Ocean on Saturday after days of speculation but US space agency NASA has complained that it was kept in the dark about its descent path.

The Long March 5B rocket re-entered over the Indian Ocean at about 12:45pm EDT Saturday (1645 GMT), but NASA said any questions about the “re-entry’s technical aspects such as potential debris dispersal impact location” would have to be answered by China.

Aerospace Corp, a government-funded non-profit research centre near Los Angeles, said it was reckless to allow the rocket’s entire main-core stage – which weighs 22.5 tons (about 48,500lb) – to return to Earth in an uncontrolled reentry.

 

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NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said: ”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.

“Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth.”

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

 


 

Earlier this week, analysts said the rocket body would disintegrate as it plunged through the atmosphere but was large enough that numerous chunks would likely survive a fiery re-entry to rain debris over an area some 2,000km (1,240 miles) long by about 70km (44 miles) wide.

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

 

NASA Says China is Secretive

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.

By contrast, he said, the United States and most other space-faring nations generally go to the added expense of designing their rockets to avoid large, uncontrolled re-entries – an imperative largely observed since large chunks of the NASA space station Skylab fell from orbit in 1979 and landed in Australia.    

Last year, NASA and others accused China of being opaque after the Beijing government kept silent about the estimated debris trajectory or the reentry window of its last Long March rocket flight in May 2021.

Debris from that flight ended up landing harmlessly in the Indian Ocean.

 

  • Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara

 

Read more:

China Tracks Debris of 22-Tonne Rocket Crashing Towards Earth

Beijing Denies China Rocket Caused Moon Crater – Forbes

China Launches New Lab Module for Tiangong Space Station

 

 

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Sean O'Meara

Sean O'Meara is an Editor at Asia Financial. He has been a newspaper man for more than 30 years, working at local, regional and national titles in the UK as a writer, sub-editor, page designer and print editor. A football, cricket and rugby fan, he has a particular interest in sports finance.

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