China rocket debris falls in Indian Ocean near Maldives
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- Debris from the last stage of China’s Long March rocket that had last month carried a key component of its under-construction space station fell into the waters of the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives on Sunday.
- The re-entry of the rocket, described by astrophysicists as the fourth-largest uncontrolled reentry in history, had evoked concerns in recent days about possible damage should it have fallen on the land, and had been criticised by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the U.S. for “failing to meet responsible standards”.
- China had rejected those concerns, saying most of the debris had been burned during reentry and that a fall into international waters was most likely.
- Double standards’: “It only refers to the loss of propulsion, but in no way means that China has lost track of its flying trajectory and real-time location,” Song Zhongping, an aerospace commentator and former instructor at a PLA Rocket Force affiliated university, told the Global Times, saying that debris from the U.S. SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that fell on a farm in Washington State did not attract similar criticism and showed Western “double standards”.
Long March-5B Y2 rocket
- The Long March-5B Y2 rocket was carrying the Tianhe, or Heavenly Harmony, module, which is the first of three key components for the construction of China’s space station, which will be completed by the end of next year.
- Tianhe will act as “the management and control hub of the space station” which is called Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, Chinese authorities said after the April 29 launch of the rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the island province of Hainan.
- The space station, which will be only the second after the International Space Station (ISS), has been designed with a lifespan of 10 years but could last 15 years, or until 2037. The life of the ISS, experts say, could be extended until 2030, by when one of its members, Russia, has said it would launch its own space station.