Hundreds of flights affected after uncontrolled re-entry of Chinese rocket

Hundreds of scheduled flights were delayed after Spain closed its airspace due to safety concerns over debris from a Chinese rocket. A similar preventive move was taken by France. 

According to Catalonia’s emergency service, remnants of China's most powerful rocket, the Long March 5B, passed over Spain's territory before they touched down in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico's coast on November 4, 2022.

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"Due to the risk associated with the passage of the space object CZ-5B through the Spanish airspace, flights have been totally restricted from 9:38 a.m. to 10:18 a.m. local time in Catalonia and other communities," the emergency service explained in a statement published on social media.

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The temporary airspace closure led to disruptions across 46 airports in Spain and resulted in at least 300 passenger flight delays. 

France took similar action to Spain, closing a part of its airspace for safety reasons.

Commenting on the incident, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said by launching its rocket, China took “unnecessary risks”. 

“They did not share specific trajectory information which is needed to predict landing zones and reduce risk. This was the PRC’s fourth uncontrolled re-entry since May 2020, and each of theire re-entries has been the largest in the last 30 years,” Nelson said.

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“It is critical that all spacefaring nations are responsible and transparent in their space activities and follow established best practices, especially, for the uncontrolled re-entry of a large rocket body debris – debris that could very well result in major damage or loss of life,” the NASA Administrator concluded. 

France took similar action to Spain, closing a part of its airspace for safety reasons. 

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