Rocket debris reenters atmosphere

China's Long March 5B carrier rocket makes its debut flight from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province on May 5, 2020. (SU DONG / CHINADAILY.COM.CN)

Debris from the recently launched Chinese Long March 5B carrier rocket fell back to Earth early on Sunday morning, with most of the remnants burning up during the reentry process, the China Manned Space Agency said.

The debris' atmospheric reentry took place around 12:55 am (Beijing time), the agency said in a brief statement, noting that it eventually landed in Pacific Ocean waters located at 9.1 degrees north and 119 degrees east. It did not provide additional details.

Based on the coordinates given by the agency, the site is in the Sulu Sea, close to Palawan Island in the Philippines.

The return put an end to Western media speculations on the possibility of debris crashing over an inhabited area in what they called "an uncontrolled reentry" of the Long March 5B.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said on Wednesday that China had been closely tracking the movement of the used rocket in orbit and continued to publish its information online.

He noted the Long March 5B rocket model is designed and has devices to neutralize its debris and impact on the Earth, and that most of its components would be destroyed during reentry.

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

A Long March 5B is 53.7 meters long with a core-stage diameter of 5 meters. The rocket is propelled by liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen and kerosene and has a liftoff weight of about 849 metric tons.

The rocket model is the most powerful Chinese launch vehicle in terms of carrying capacity to the low-Earth orbit. It is essential to China's space station program because it is now the only Chinese launch vehicle capable of carrying large space station parts to orbit.