Debris from a China's largest rocket has plunged back to Earth over Indian Ocean in an uncontrolled re-entry today, according to organisations who had been tracking it, reports Independent.
The website Space-Track said in a tweet that people tracking the rocket "can relax". "The rocket is down," it wrote.
"We believe the rocket went down in the Indian Ocean, but are waiting on official data from" the Space Force squadron tasked with cataloguing objects in orbit, it said.
It was not immediately clear that the re-entry was safe, and the co-ordinates given by Chinese authorities were close to the Maldives. But there were no immediate reports of problems, and no indication that any debris from the re-entry had been found.
The rocket made its re-entry at 3.24 UK time, just west of the Maldives, according to Chinese officials posting on Weibo. Most of the debris was destroyed during the re-entry, and those remains fell into the ocean, the post said, though it gave no indication of how it had gathered that information.
The Long March 5B was launched on April 29 at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in China.
It's mission was to carry a module containing living quarters for a future Chinese station into orbit.
But after completing that task, the body of the rocket was circling the Earth.
China's foreign ministry said on Friday that most debris would burn up on re-entry and was highly unlikely to cause any harm.
The Long March 5B – comprising one core stage and four boosters – lifted off from China's Hainan island on April 29 with the unmanned Tianhe module, which contains what will become living quarters on a permanent Chinese space station.
In May 2020, pieces from the first Long March 5B fell on Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings. No injuries were reported.
Debris from Chinese rocket launches is not uncommon within China. In late April, authorities in the city of Shiyan, Hubei Province, issued a notice to people in the surrounding county to prepare for evacuation as parts were expected to land in the area.
"The Long March 5B reentry is unusual because during launch, the first stage of the rocket reached orbital velocity instead of falling down range as is common practice," the Aerospace Corporation said in a blog post.
"The empty rocket body is now in an elliptical orbit around Earth where it is being dragged toward an uncontrolled re-entry."
The empty core stage has been losing altitude since last week, but the speed of its orbital decay remains uncertain due to unpredictable atmospheric variables.
It is one of the largest pieces of space debris to return to Earth, with experts estimating its dry mass to be approximately 18 to 22 tonnes.
The core stage of the first Long March 5B that returned to Earth last year weighed nearly 20 tonnes, surpassed only by debris from the Columbia space shuttle in 2003, the Soviet Union's Salyut 7 space station in 1991, and NASA's Skylab in 1979.