PH Space Agency confirms Chinese rocket debris found off Mamburao coast

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Photo courtesy: Philippine Coast Guard

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 3) — The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) confirmed Wednesday that the torn metal sheet bearing a portion of China’s flag found in waters off Occidental Mindoro was part of the Chinese rocket launched on July 24.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) retrieved the material, which has markings of the Long March 5B (CZ-5B) rocket, from fishermen who discovered it some 160 kilometers off Mamburao.

“The debris retrieved by PCG Mamburao was identified to be part of the CZ-5B's payload fairing, which detaches from the rocket as it enters outer space during launch,” PhilSA explained. “These discarded rocket stages are usually designed and planned to shed over specific drop zones.”

The drop zones are typically bodies of water chosen to reduce the risks of remnants falling onto populated areas, explained PhilSA in a statement.

The 23-ton CZ-5B took off from Hainan Island on July 24, carrying the Wentian laboratory module towards China’s space station.

READ: Remnants of an uncontrolled Chinese rocket reentered the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean, US Space Command says

“The rocket, launched on July 24, re-entered the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean on July 31 12:45 a.m. Philippine Standard Time. Components of CZ-5B were also reportedly seen over the Malaysian airspace, moments before the landing trajectory ended in the Sulu Sea near Palawan,” PhilSA said.

According to PhilSA, all relevant government agencies were proactively advised about CZ-5B’s launch and estimated drop zones of the rocket debris before July 24.

It added that teams were mobilized to implement coordination protocols with other agencies during the debris re-entry on July 31.

Furthermore, PhilSA reminded the public to immediately inform local authorities of suspected rocket debris sighted at sea or land while cautioning anyone against coming close to these materials since they may contain remnants of toxic substances such as rocket fuel.