MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Officials have warned of the potential danger to planes and ships of debris from a new launch of a Chinese missile that could land in northern Philippine waters, authorities said Thursday, adding that so far they are not debris spotted.
The Philippine Space Agency said China’s Long March 7A rocket was launched Tuesday night from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on Hainan Island. This prompted the agency to notify Philippine authorities ahead of the Chinese rocket launch of the potential danger in two offshore areas, where debris could plummet according to estimates.
The possible “launch zones” were 71 kilometers (44 miles) off the city of Burgos in the province of Ilocos Norte and 52 kilometers (32 miles) from the city of Santa Ana in the province of Cagayan, the space agency said, citing the information gives a notice to pilots issued by the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration.
Parts of the rocket that detach before reaching space should, by design, fall back into the open sea less than an hour after a rocket launch, Philippine Space Agency spokesperson Tricia Zafra said.
“No sightings so far. We keep looking for reports, “Zafra told The Associated Press.” Hopefully, no injuries or damage related to it. “
The Philippine Civil Aviation Authority warned Wednesday in a warning issued to pilots of the possible danger posed by debris in the two offshore areas of the northern Philippines.
“While the CZ-7A debris is unlikely to fall on land features or inhabited areas in Philippine territory, the falling debris still poses a significant threat to ships, planes, fishing boats and other ships that will pass through the drop zones.” The Philippine Space Agency said Tuesday in a statement.
In July, debris from the central stage of the Long March 5B rocket launched in China landed in Philippine waters with an uncontrolled return, the agency said. No damage or injuries were reported.
Fishermen at the time found a torn metal plate showing part of the Chinese flag and a Long March 5B rocket sign in the Western Philippine Sea about 160 kilometers (100 miles) offshore from the city of Mamburao in Occidental Mindoro province, according to the space agency, using the Filipino name for part of the South China Sea closest to its west coast.
On Tuesday, the agency asked the public to immediately notify local authorities if suspected floating debris was sighted at sea and warned people not to retrieve or come into close contact with such materials.
China has been criticized for allowing rocket stages to fall uncontrolled to Earth at least twice before. NASA accused Beijing last year of “failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris” after parts of a Chinese rocket landed in the Indian Ocean.
The country’s first space station, Tiangong-1, crashed in the Pacific Ocean in 2016 after Beijing confirmed it had lost control. An 18-ton rocket crashed uncontrollably in May 2020.
China has also faced criticism after using a missile to destroy one of its deceased weather satellites in 2007, creating a debris field that other governments say could jeopardize other satellites.