Spain’s airspace was briefly closed after uncontrolled Chinese rocket debris falls to Earth

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On Friday, Spain’s airspace had to be partially closed for some time over several regions including the northeastern region of Catalonia and three other regions in the country. This comes after a nearly 23-tonne Chinese rocket, lengthy March 5B (CZ-5B), broke up as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere before falling into the Pacific Ocean. 

The authorities also indicated that the debris of the Chinese rocket passed by the Spanish airspace before falling off the Mexican coast. unkindwhile, partial closure that lasted for nearly 40 minutes between 9:37 am to 10:17 am, led to the delay of nearly 300 flights, said Spain’s airport authorities. 

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lengthy March 5B is one of the most powerful Chinese rockets, said reports. As per the US Space Command it “re-entered the atmosphere over the south-central Pacific Ocean at 4:01 am MDT/10:01 UTC on 11/4.” As per the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EUSST) centre, the core stage of the rocket was about 30 metres long and weighed somewhere between 17 to 23 tonnes making one of the “largest pieces of debris re-entering” the Earth’s atmosphere in the near past. 

This uncontrolled debris re-entering the atmosphere drew criticism from NASA Administrator Bill Nelson who in a statement on Friday said, “Once again, the People’s Republic of China is taking unnecessary risks with the uncontrolled rocket stage reentry of their lengthy March 5B rocket stage. They did not share specific trajectory information which is needed to predict landing zones and reduce risk.” 

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He added, that it is critical for all “spacefaring nations” to be “responsible and transparent” in their space-related activities and adhere to the established practices, particularly for “uncontrolled reentry of a large rocket body debris – debris that could very well result in major damage or loss of life.” 

The rocket took off from Earth on October 31 to deliver the third module of the Chinese Tiangong space station. This incident also marked the fourth flight as well as the fourth uncontrolled re-entry of the lengthy March 5B since its maiden flight back in May 2020. The debris from the first deployment landed in the west African nation Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings, while no injuries were reported at the time. 

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The remnants of the second flight landed harmlessly in the Indian Ocean and the third flight debris fell into the Sulu Sea in the Philippines without any incidents. unkindwhile, at a press briefing the spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry,  Zhao Lijian, said the rocket’s re-entry into the atmosphere is common international practice, while the chances of it causing any damage are “extremely low”. 

(With inputs from agencies) 

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