Debris from Chinese rocket splashes back to Earth over Indian Ocean

·2 min read

Remnants of the Long March-5B Y2 rocket re-entered Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, officials in China announced Sunday morning Beijing time.

Details: Most of the rocket's debris burned up during the uncontrolled re-entry, the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said in a social media post. NASA administrator Bill Nelson accused China's government in a statement Saturday of "failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris."

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with Axios Markets. Subscribe for free

"Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations."

Nelson

  • Parts of the rocket's 100-foot core re-entered the atmosphere at 10.24a.m. Sunday Beijing time (10.24p.m. Saturday ET), landing at 72.47 degrees east longitude and 2.65 degrees north latitude, the CMSEO said.

For the record: The Pentagon said this week it was tracking the descent of the rocket that carried a Chinese Space Station module to orbit last month, but experts couldn't predict where it would land.

Between the lines: Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., tweeted: "An ocean reentry was always statistically the most likely.

  • "It appears China won its gamble (unless we get news of debris in the Maldives). But it was still reckless."

Of note: Axios' Miriam Kramer notes that China’s Tiangong-1 space station returned to Earth in an uncontrolled descent in 2018, burning up above the Pacific Ocean.

What to watch: We could see more uncontrolled rocket re-entries in the future as China launches further missions to its new space station, per the New York Times.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Like this article? Get more from Axios and subscribe to Axios Markets for free.