No sightings in northern Philippines of Chinese rocket debris

Manila, Philippines — Officials have warned of the potential danger to planes and ships from debris from a new Chinese rocket launch that could fall in northern Philippine waters, authorities said on Thursday, adding that no debris was found. had been seen so far.

The Philippine Space Agency said China’s Long March 7A rocket launched Tuesday evening from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island. This prompted the agency to notify Philippine authorities ahead of the Chinese rocket’s launch of potential danger in two offshore areas, where the debris could crash based on estimates.

The possible “drop zones” were 71 kilometers (44 miles) from the city of Burgos in Ilocos Norte province and 52 kilometers (32 miles) from the city of Santa Ana in Cagayan province, the official said. space agency, citing information from a notice to pilots issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

Rocket parts that detach before reaching space should, by design, fall back offshore within an hour of a rocket’s launch, Philippine Space Agency spokeswoman Tricia Zafra said.

“So far no sightings. We continue to seek information,” Zafra told The Associated Press. “Hopefully there will be no injuries or damage related to this.”

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines warned in a notice to pilots on Wednesday of the possible danger posed by debris in the two offshore areas in the northern Philippines.

“While debris from CZ-7A is unlikely to fall on land features or populated areas within Philippine territory, falling debris still poses a significant threat to ships, aircraft, fishing boats and the other ships that will pass through the drop zones,” the Philippine space agency said in a statement Tuesday.

In July, debris from the core stage of the Long March 5B rocket launched in China landed in Philippine waters during an uncontrolled re-entry, the agency said. No damage or injuries were reported.

Fishermen at the time found a torn sheet metal showing part of the Chinese flag and a marking of the Long March 5B rocket in the Western Philippine Sea about 160 kilometers (100 miles) off the city of Mamburao in the province. Western Mindoro, according to the space agency, using the Filipino name for a stretch of the South China Sea closer to its west coast.

The agency urged the public on Tuesday to notify local authorities immediately if suspicious floating debris is sighted at sea and warned people against scavenging or close contact with such materials.

China has been criticized for letting rocket stages fall to Earth unchecked at least twice before. NASA accused Beijing last year of “failing to maintain responsible standards for their space debris” after parts of a Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean.

The country’s first space station, Tiangong-1, crashed into the Pacific Ocean in 2016 after Beijing confirmed it had lost control of it. An 18-ton rocket fell out of control in May 2020.

China has also faced criticism after it used a missile to destroy one of its old weather satellites in 2007, creating a debris field that other governments say could endanger other satellites.

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