NASA’s claims on Chinese rocket challenged

A Long March 5B rocket sends China's Wentian space lab into space on July 24, 2022. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

China is a responsible spacefaring actor when it comes to dealing with rocket debris, observers said, challenging NASA Administrator Bill Nelson's accusations regarding Chinese rocket debris.

Nelson published a statement on NASA's website on Sunday claiming that China "did not share specific trajectory information as their Long March 5B rocket fell back to Earth". He also made comments about the "responsible use of space" and ensuring "the safety of people here on Earth".

The statement came after a string of sensationalist Western media reports about the risks of rocket debris crashing over an inhabited area in what they called "an uncontrolled reentry" of a Chinese Long March 5B.

The rocket, which blasted off on July 24 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, was used to send China's Wentian space lab module to dock with the country's Tiangong space station.

Yang Yuguang, a senior space industry observer and vice-chair of the International Astronautical Federation's Space Transportation Committee, said on Thursday in Beijing that Nelson's claims were groundless and meant to hype up issues related to China's space programs.

At least 90 percent of the Long March 5B is made of a thin, combustible metal casing that will burn up on reentry into the atmosphere. The amount of components capable of enduring this and finally reaching Earth is almost equal to that of any other type of rocket, Yang said.

Wu Peixin, an aerospace industry observer, said that the US must have been able to calculate the time and general location of the Long March 5B's descent to Earth, given that China had published detailed data about this type of rocket several times before its reentry on previous occasions.

Before its reentry at 12:55 am on Sunday, China had published daily updates on the orbital data of the rocket since July 27 on the China Manned Space Agency's website.