Philippines warns public over Chinese rocket debris

Remnants of country's largest rocket are hurtling towards Earth

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The Philippines Space Agency has issued a warning to the public over debris from China’s largest rocket that is set to make an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth.

It is expected that the debris from the Long March 5B will fall into the seas off the Philippines on Saturday.

These are remnants of the rocket that launched the Mengtian module — the last component of China’s Tiangong space station — on Monday.

The space agency said a notice issued by Chinese officials stated that the drop zones of the debris were near to islands in the Philippines.

“The Philippines drop zone 1 is approximately 72 kilometres from Bajo de Masinloc, while drop zone 2 is approximately 39km from Busuanga, Palawan,” the space agency said.

“Anticipated to fall within these areas are the ‘expected unburned debris’, or parts of the rocket designed to be discarded as the rocket enters outer space.”

The launch of the Long March 5B rocket from Tiangong space station in southern China on Monday.  AFP

It said that the booster stages are expected to fall on drop zone 1 and the rocket fairing is expected to land in drop zone 2.

This is not the first time pieces of a Chinese rocket have made an uncontrolled re-entry.

On July 30, remnants of another Long March 5B fell back to Earth after blazing a fiery trail over the Indian Ocean.

Large pieces of metal found in Indonesian and Malaysian villages were thought to be debris from the rocket.

Last May, parts of another Long March 5B made an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere and fell into the Indian Ocean.

The event caused anxiety and a sharp rebuke from Nasa.

“While debris from Long March 5B is unlikely to fall on land features or inhabited areas in the Philippine territory, falling debris still poses a considerable risk to ships, aircraft, fishing boats and other vessels that will pass through the drop zones,” the Philippines Space Agency said.

“Actual drop zones may also vary because of various factors such as the Earth’s rotation, weather, and climate conditions.

“There is also a possibility for the debris to float around the area and wash toward nearby coasts.

“Furthermore, the possibility of an uncontrolled re-entry to the atmosphere of the rocket’s upper stages returning from outer space cannot be ruled out at this time.”

The space agency issued a public advisory to members of the public to inform local authorities if suspected debris is sighted.

It also cautioned people against coming in close contact with these materials, as they may contain remnants of rocket fuel.

Updated: November 03, 2022, 6:18 AM
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