The Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) is recommending precautionary measures related to expected unburned debris from the Long March 3B rocket scheduled for launch today between 12:33 PM and 01:10 PM Philippine time from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Xichang, Sichuan Province, China. Upon confirmation of planned launch dates, PhilSA immediately issued an advisory to all relevant government agencies on the estimated drop zone area and proposed the issuance of appropriate warnings on air and marine access.

Based on the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) issued by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), expected unburned debris, such as the rocket boosters and payload fairing, is projected to fall within a drop zone area located within the vicinity of Recto bank, approximately 137 kilometers from Ayungin Shoal and 200 kilometers from Quezon, Palawan. The unburned debris is designed to be discarded as the rocket enters outer space. While not projected to fall on land features or inhabited areas within the Philippine territory, falling debris poses danger and potential risk to ships, aircraft, fishing boats, and other vessels that will pass through the drop zone.

Estimated drop zone area for unburned debris from Long March 3B

The actual drop zone area may change because of various factors such as the Earth’s rotation, weather, and climate conditions. There is also a possibility for the debris to float around the area and wash toward nearby coasts. Furthermore, the possibility of an uncontrolled re-entry to the atmosphere of the rocket’s upper stages returning from outer space cannot be ruled out at this time.

PhilSA reiterates its earlier public advisory to immediately inform local authorities if suspected debris is sighted. PhilSA also cautions the public against retrieving or coming in close contact with these materials that may contain remnants of toxic substances such as rocket fuel.