Last week, a Chinese rocket, more precisely a Long March 5B returned to Earth in a chaotic way, forcing Spain to close part of its airspace. If the debris of the rocket landed in the Sunu Sea, off the Philippines, thousands of kilometers from Barcelona, questions have been flying for a few days following this new slippage of the CNSA (the Chinese space agency).
This is not the first (and certainly not the last) time that China has dropped a rocket into the atmosphere without worrying about its return trajectory. During a press conference last weekend, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning was asked about the matter.
China remains very closed on the subject
The least we can say is that he was not very vocal on the subject. Asked by the New York Times, he assured that the debris had at no time been a danger to the ISS or the Chinese space station. Ning then returned the ball assuring that “the relevant authorities” would be able to provide more information.
This new key response is beginning to irritate the various competing space agencies who hope that China will one day take the measure of the risk incurred during a return of this kind to Earth. As said above, this is not the first time that China has been singled out on this subject, and it seems to have nothing to do with American and European warnings.
A certain danger
However, the danger is very real and pieces of Chinese rockets are regularly found all over the world. Luckily for the Middle Kingdom, our Earth is covered over 60% by water. A simple calculation of probability therefore makes it possible to reduce the risk of debris falling on inhabited areas.
Closely followed by Dutch astronomer Cees Bassa, the return of the Chinese Long March rocket was very impressive. ” All parts fell rapidly giving very distinct flash patterns. But China is not the only power to flout the agreements of the space treaty (which imposes a calculation of the trajectory of return to Earth).
SpaceX: the other bad student
The American company SpaceX has been taken to task several times for its dangerous behavior during the return of the central stage of the Falcon 9 rocket in particular. While the company has demonstrated that it is able to return boosters and first stages properly, it must now succeed in controlling the repatriation to Earth of the last parts of its rockets.
Recently several pieces of debris were found in Australia not far from an inhabited farm. Unlike China, SpaceX takes the subject to heart, at least on the front, and has launched a special investigation to understand how this debris arrived on Australian territory.