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China's Long March rocket stage has reentered Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean, north of the Maldives, U.S. officials confirmed.
The rocket broke up upon reentry, which occurred at 10.14pm U.S. Eastern Time on Saturday and fell into the Ocean, according to Space Force's 18 Space Control Squadron.
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.
The rocket is set to be followed by 10 more missions to complete the station.
China's Long March rocket stage has reentered Earth's atmosphere over the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, the US Space Agency confirmed
The rocket stage will reportedly crash into the Indian Ocean near the Maldives
A massive 18-ton chunk of a Chinese rocket crashed back to earth tonight. Pictured: The Long March 5B rocket lifting off from the Wenchang launch site on China's southern Hainan island
Possible re-entry points are seen along he yellow line in this ground track from Space Track
New photographs taken by telescope emerged this week as the rocket plummeted across the stars ahead of its anticipated crash to Earth
Long March 5 rockets have been integral to China's near-term space ambitions - from the delivery of modules and crew of its planned space station to launches of exploratory probes to the Moon and even Mars.
The Long March launched last week was the second deployment of the 5B variant since its maiden flight in May last year.
McDowell previously told Reuters there is a chance that pieces of the rocket could come down over land, perhaps in a populated area, as in May 2020, when 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.'
A graphic shows the section of the rocket that plunged back to Earth on Saturday
The Long March 5B rocket carrying a module for a Chinese space station lifted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province
The first image of China's rouge Long March 5B rocket has been released by astronomers. The Italy-based Virtual Telescope Project captured the craft, which appears like a glowing light, as it passed 435 miles above the group's 'Elena' robotic telescope