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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Rocket debris from Spain’s closed airspace

Airspace in Spain was briefly closed last Friday, due to the fall of a huge piece of a Chinese rocket to Earth, causing hundreds of flight delays.

Uncontrolled fallout from a Chinese rocket briefly closed airspace over northeastern Spain last week, causing hundreds of flight delays.

The Guardian reported that a large part of the huge Long March 5B rocket used to launch the third module of China’s Tiangong space station re-entered the atmosphere in an uncontrolled manner.

This is not the first time that a rocket re-entering the atmosphere has made landfall. But it is relatively rare that space debris is actually found on land, as the pieces that manage to survive the re-entry process usually fall into the ocean.

chinese rocket

But space debris sometimes hits the earth.

Last year, what was believed to be a piece of the second stage of a SpaceX rocket, which powers the rocket after the lower first stage spends all its fuel, landed on a farm in Washington state in the US. USA

Then, in August 2022, a landowner in Australia discovered a surprise, after bits of space debris from a SpaceX mission were found on his farm.

Reportedly, there is an obligation under international space law to repatriate debris to the country from which it originated.

Now, according to The Guardian report, a large part of the Chinese Long March 5B (CZ-5B) rocket broke off as it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the south-central Pacific Ocean last Friday.

The EU Space Surveillance and Tracking operations center (EUSST), which oversaw the fragment’s return to Earth, said the rocket’s core stage was about 30 meters long and weighed between 17 and 23 tons, making it “one of the largest pieces of debris”. re-entering the near past.”

His re-entry prompted Spain’s air navigation authority, Enaire, to impose airspace restrictions over northeastern parts of the country, including Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.

“Given the uncontrolled entry of debris from the Chinese space object CZ-5B in descending orbit through our national territory, Enaire, in accordance with the recommendations of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency and the interministerial directions led by the Department of National Security Security, established a 100 km airspace exclusion zone on either side of the space object’s orbit,” The Guardian quoted the agency in a statement.

A later update said the closure of Spanish airspace, which lasted from 9:37 a.m. Friday until 10:17 a.m., caused flight delays of half an hour.

Spain’s airport operator Aena said 300 of 5,484 scheduled flights at its 46 airports were affected, The Guardian reported.

At a regular briefing on Friday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said re-entering the rocket into the atmosphere was common international practice.

“It is understood that [this] type of rocket…uses special technology designed so that the vast majority of components…are destroyed by ablation during re-entry into the atmosphere, and the probability of causing damage to aviation activities and the ground is extremely low” Zhao said.

space junk

There is a well-documented and growing problem of space debris and clutter, as there are believed to be close to 30,000 satellites and other debris orbiting the planet.

In December last year, China alleged that Starlink satellites had two “close encounters” with the Chinese space station on July 1 and October 21, 2021.

SpaceX’s Starlink has been launching thousands of satellites into orbit for its satellite broadband service. There are now said to be more than 2,300 Starlink satellites in orbit (as of September 2022), although the intention is to eventually build a fleet of 42,000 satellite constellations.

Musk tweeted in response to China’s accusations that some Starlink satellite orbits had been adjusted to reduce the chance of collisions.

In the meantime, governments are urged to share satellite location data to reduce the risk of catastrophic space collisions.

In November 2021, Russia was heavily criticized for blowing up a satellite in orbit, creating a dangerous cloud of debris that can be lethal to astronauts during a spacewalk.

Debris clouds can also be dangerous to space stations and other satellites.

Russia apparently resorted to blowing up the satellite because it couldn’t move to burn up in the atmosphere.

NASA was reportedly forced to abruptly cancel a spacewalk in late November 2021, citing the risks posed by space debris.

China began building its space station in April 2021 with the Tianhe launch.

The station is expected to be completed in late 2022 after four manned missions.

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