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Chinese Space Rocket Debris Could Fall On Greece

Map of the ground track across the area of interest. Credit: EASA / EU SST

Debris from a Chinese space rocket could fall on Greece on the weekend of July 30th to July 31st, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) warned on Thursday.

A map published by EASA showed Crete and Northern Greece were part of the ground track across the area where the rocket debris could end up.

The initial forecast was for a time window between 9:14 pm on July 30th to 6:08 pm on July 31, UTC.

“The European Union Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) experts have estimated that the debris generated by the aforementioned object will likely re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere in an uncontrolled manner between [July 30, 2022 and July 31, 2022],” the safety bulletin explained.

Object CZ-5B, derived from China’s Long March 5B space rocket, has an estimated mass ranging between 17 and 22 tons, which makes it one of the largest pieces of debris re-entering the atmosphere in recent years. For this reason, it deserves careful monitoring, EASA pointed out.

“As this is an uncontrolled re-entry, it is difficult at this point in time to predict exactly the
trajectory of debris and where on Earth the parts will fall,” the bulletin added. “A more detailed prediction could be available only a few hours before impact.”

Areas expected to be affected by rocket debris

“The EU SST has estimated a variety of possible re-entry trajectories one of which could affect the southern European airspace,” EASA’s safety bulletin said. “Areas/airspace potentially affected are: Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, and Spain.”

At the time of the bulletin release, the safety concern described was not considered to be an unsafe condition that would warrant Safety Directive action according to the respective EU regulation.

Nonetheless, EASA recommended that the concerned authorities and aircraft operators regularly monitor and take into consideration the latest predictions published by the
European Union Satellite Centre, available at the EU SST website, and to adapt the risk assessments according to the evolving situation and information available.

It also recommended that they consider implementing and notifying airspace restrictions on a two hundred kilometer wide path around each of the re-entry passes as forecasted by the EU SST at the foreseen times.

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