China says remains of rocket booster fell to Earth

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BEIJING — Debris from a rocket that propelled part of China’s new space station into orbit fell into the sea in the Philippines on Sunday, the Chinese government said.

Most of the Long March-5B rocket’s final stage burned out after it entered the atmosphere at 12:55 a.m., the China Manned Space Agency reported. The agency said earlier that the rappel would be allowed to fall without guidance.

The announcement does not specify whether the remaining debris fell on land or sea, but indicates that the “landing zone” is located at 119 degrees east longitude and 9.1 degrees north latitude. It is in the waters southeast of the Philippine town of Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan.

Philippine authorities did not immediately say if anyone on the ground had been hit.

China has been criticized for letting rocket stages fall to Earth unchecked 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.

On July 24, the launch of the Long March-5B, China’s most powerful rocket, sent Wentian Laboratory into orbit. He was attached to the main module of Tianhe, where three astronauts live, on Monday.

The remains of a separate cargo spacecraft that serviced the station fell in a predetermined area in the South Pacific after most of it burned up on reentry, the government said earlier.

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