Another piece of Chinese rocket debris falls into WPS—PhilSA

ANOTHER piece of debris from the Long March 5B (CZ-5B) Chinese rocket that was launched into space on July 24 was found in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) reported on Wednesday.

PhilSA said Filipino fishermen first discovered a torn metal sheet bearing a part of the Chinese flag and a portion of the Long March 5B rocket some 100 miles off the coast of Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro. It was later retrieved by the Philippine Coast Guard.

“Upon visual verification, the Philippine Space Agency [PhilSA] confirms that the debris was part of CZ-5B,” PhilSA said in a statement.

This is the second time that debris from the Chinese rocket fell over Philippine territory.

The first one came from rocket components that disintegrated during re-entry into atmosphere and landed at Sulu Sea on July 31, east of Palawan.

However, unlike the first debris, the second piece that fell on West Philippine Sea is part of the CZ-5B’s “payload fairing” which detaches from the rocket as it enters outer space during launch.

“These discarded rocket stages are usually designed and planned to shed over specific drop zones. The drop zones are usually bodies of water and are selected to minimize the hazards of falling onto populated areas,” PhilSA explained.

PhilSA said they “proactively” issued an advisory to all relevant agencies about the launch and the estimated drop zone locations of the rocket debris before the rocket launch occurred on July 24.

When debris from the same rocket re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, PhilSA said they had mobilized teams and prepared to implement coordination protocols with other national government agencies “for the issuance of actionable information as necessary.” It was not known if the agencies issued any advisories or notice to their constituencies after receiving PhilSA alerts.

“PhilSA reiterates its earlier advice to the public to immediately inform local authorities of suspected debris sighted at sea or land. PhilSA cautions everyone against retrieving or coming in close proximity to these materials, since fallen rocket debris may contain remnants of toxic substances such as rocket fuel,” it said.

PhilSA said they continue to coordinate with relevant government agencies and partners such as the Philippine Coast Guard and National Coast Watch Center to ensure the proper handling of the rocket debris.