Spain Closes Airspace Due To Falling Chinese Rocket Debris

Spain initiated a partial airspace closure Friday due to the risk of falling debris from a Chinese rocket re-entering the atmosphere.

Local officials said the closure involved the Catalonia region in northeastern Spain, according to Reuters. The airspace also closed in three additional regions in the country. The closure remained in effect for almost 40 minutes leaving planes at airports in Barcelona and Ibiza temporarily grounded, the BBC reported.

The rocket involved, a Long March 5B, launched to deliver the final portion of the China’s Tiangong space station, according to the BBC. The closure involved a 62-mile wide exclusion zone around the projected path of the rocket within Spanish airspace. Some parts of the rocket eventually re-entered the atmosphere without control and plunged into the Pacific Ocean.

Authorities decided to initiate the airspace closure following an indication from the European Union Space Surveillance and Tracking Service (EUSST) that remnants from the rocket could potentially hit northern Spain and Portugal along with southern Italy, Reuters reported.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) described the portion that fell into the Pacific Ocean as one of the most significant objects in terms of size to pass through the atmosphere in the last few years, the BBC reported. (RELATED: NASA Launches Massive, $10 Billion Telescope Into Space. It’s 100 Times More Powerful Than Hubble)

NASA previously called on China to maintain international standards in rocket production and design parts with better disintegration capabilities upon atmospheric re-entry, according to the BBC. Falling debris from a Chinese rocket damaged Ivory Coast homes in 2020.

A booster from another Chinese Long March 5B rocket made an uncontrolled re-entry in July while a portion of an out-of-control Russian rocket slammed into the Pacific Ocean in January. SpaceX previously experienced mixed results with the implementation of vertically landing rockets.

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