8th February 2023
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Spain temporarily closes airspace due to Chinese rocket debris

Spain briefly closed part of its airspace on Friday as remnants of a Chinese rocket passed by, disrupting air travel in several cities including Barcelona, officials said.

Flights were ‘totally restricted’ for 40 minutes in Catalonia and several other regions ‘due to the risk associated with the passage of the space object CZ-5B through the Spanish airspace’, Catalonia’s civil protection service tweeted.

The airspace closure, which began at 9.38am, affected several other regions in northern Spain, it added.

Flights in and out of Barcelona, Tarragona, Reus and Ibiza in the Balearic Islands and other destinations were temporarily disrupted as a result, Spain’s airport operator AENA said.

However, authorities expected the consequences to last the whole day, and in some cases people had to wait up to an hour for their flight to depart.

According to AENA, there were 157 flights affected in Barcelona because of the rocket. However, only 66 of the flights saw a delay of more than 15 minutes. In Girona airport, two London-Standsted flights were the only ones affected, while in Reus, there were no registered incidents.

The rocket, the Long March 5B (CZ-5B), blasted off from southern China on Monday to deliver the last module for a Chinese space station currently under construction.

Debris from the rocket fell into the south-central Pacific Ocean at 11:01am Spanish time, the US Space Command said in a tweet.

As rockets fall back to Earth, most of them burn up on re-entry, although large chunks may survive.

China has faced criticism for allowing rockets to fall to Earth uncontrolled in the past.

In July, remnants from a Chinese rocket fell into the Sulu Sea in the Philippines, prompting leading US officials to chide Beijing for not sharing information about the potentially hazardous object’s descent.


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