China’s last launch of 2022 sparks falling rocket debris warning from Philippine Space Agency

The atmospheric re-entry of a satellite, such as the ATV-1 satellite shown here, will lead to the majority or even the totality of the satellite’s composition being deposited into various layers of Earth’s atmosphere. The more satellites are launched, and the more frequently they’re de-orbited, the greater the effects of atmospheric pollution will become. (Credit: ESA/NASA)

By Leonard David,
Published by, 30 December 2022

The Philippine Space Agency warned agencies to take “precautionary measures related to expected unburned debris” from the rocket.

China’s last space launch of 2022, which lifted off on Thursday (Dec. 29), has prompted a warning of falling rocket space debris from the Philippine Space Agency.

A Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center Thursday carrying the Shiyan-10 02 satellite to be used for in-orbit verification of new space technologies, such as space environment monitoring.

A Chinese Long March 3B rocket lifts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying the Shiyan-10 02 satellite on Dec. 29, 2022. (Image credit: CAST)

Unburned rocket debris

After the launch, the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) recommended “precautionary measures related to expected unburned debris from the Long March 3B rocket” in a statement (opens in new tab).

PhilSA officials issued the advisory to all relevant government agencies on the estimated drop zone area and proposed the issuance of appropriate warnings on air and marine access. The launch vehicle leftovers, such as the rocket boosters and payload fairing, were projected to fall within a drop zone area located within the vicinity of Recto bank.

“While not projected to fall on land features or inhabited areas within the Philippine territory, falling debris poses danger and potential risk to ships, aircraft, fishing boats, and other vessels that will pass through the drop zone,” according to a PhilSA statement.

This map released by the Philippine Space Agency shows the danger zone for potential rocket debris from China’s Long March 3B launch on Dec. 29, 2022. (Image credit: Phillipine Space Agency)

The actual drop zone area, PhilSA added, may change because of various factors such as the Earth’s rotation, weather and climate conditions.

“There is also a possibility for the debris to float around the area and wash toward nearby coasts. Furthermore, the possibility of an uncontrolled re-entry to the atmosphere of the rocket’s upper stages returning from outer space cannot be ruled out at this time,” PhilSA stated.

PhilSA reiterated its earlier public advisory to immediately inform local authorities if suspected debris is sighted. PhilSA also cautioned the public against retrieving or coming in close contact with these materials that may contain remnants of toxic substances such as rocket fuel.

China’s Long March 3B launch on Thursday was the country’s second launch of the week. 

On Tuesday (Dec. 27), the country launched  Gaofen-11 04 satellite from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Gaofen-11 04 is an Earth-observation satellite designed to be used for “land resources surveying, urban planning, road network design, crop yield estimation and disaster relief,” according to China Central Television.

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