The “vast majority” of the rocket debris burned up during re-entry into the atmosphere around 12:55 a.m., China’s Manned Space Agency said in a statement on its official Weibo social media account on Sunday.
The rest “landed in the sea” at 119.0° East and 9.1° North, he said. These coordinates are located in the waters of the Philippine island of Palawan, southeast of the city of Puerto Princesa. China’s statement did not say whether the debris fell to the ground.
Experts were concerned that the massive size of the 176-foot rocket and the risky design of its launch process it would mean that its debris might not burn up upon re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. The rocket dropped its empty 23-tonne first stage into orbit, roaming the planet for several days as it neared landing on a flight path that was difficult to predict.
The United States said China was taking a significant risk by allowing the rocket to fall uncontrollably to Earth without reporting its possible path.
“The People’s Republic of China did not share specific trajectory information when its Long March 5B rocket fell to Earth,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. tweeted Saturday.
“All spacefaring nations must follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to enable reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy vehicles, such as Long March 5B, which carry significant risk. of loss of life and property,” he continued. “Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensuring the safety of people here on Earth.”
Before the rocket’s re-entry, China tried to allay fears that the debris posed a risk to the public, predicting that pieces of the core stage would likely end up in the sea.
US criticism of China over space debris has been going on for a long time. “It is clear that China is not meeting responsible standards regarding its space debris.” read a statement launched by NASA last year.
Last week, the Chinese state-run Global Times newspaper accused the West of showing “sour grapes” and trying to discredit its space efforts in space. Article accused the US of leading a “smear campaign” against the “sound development of China’s aerospace sector”.
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