Chinese rocket debris has crashed to Earth over the Indian and Pacific oceans, US and Chinese officials say. China’s space agency said most remains of the Long March 5 burnt in the atmosphere, identifying the Sulu Sea in the Pacific as the re-entry location.
Earlier, space experts had said the probability of the rocket landing in a populated area was extremely low.
The uncontrolled return of rocket’s core stage has raised questions about responsibility for space junk. There have previously been calls by Nasa for the Chinese space agency to design rockets to disintegrate into smaller pieces upon re-entry, as is the international norm. In a tweet, the US Space Command said the Long March 5 “re-entered over the Indian Ocean at approx 10:45 am MDT [16:45 GMT] on 7/30”.
It referred its readers to the Chinese authorities for more details.
Meanwhile, China’s space agency gave re-entry co-ordinates as 119 degrees East longitude and 9.1 degrees North latitude. This corresponds to an area in the Sulu Sea – east of the Philippine island of Palawan in the north Pacific.
Recent rockets heading to China’s unfinished space station, known as Tiangong, have lacked the capability for a controlled re-entry.