Debris from the last stage of China’s Long March rocket that had last month carried a key component of its under-construction space station fell into the waters of the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives on Sunday.
The re-entry of the rocket, described by astrophysicists as the fourth-largest uncontrolled reentry in history, had evoked concerns in recent days about possible damage should it have fallen on land, and had been criticised by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the U.S. for “failing to meet responsible standards”. China had rejected those concerns, saying most of the debris had been burned during re-entry and that a fall into international waters was most likely.
The China Manned Space Agency (CSMA) said on Sunday “the vast majority of the device burned up during the reentry, and the rest of the debris fell into a sea area with the centre at 2.65 degrees north latitude and 72.47 degrees east longitude,” placing it west of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.
The Maldives National Defence Force said on Sunday its Coastguard Squadron “is active after receiving reports of rocket debris fallen in Maldivian waters”.