Much of Spain’s airspace has been shut down over fears that debris from a large out-of-control Chinese rocket will rain down on the European country.
On Friday, European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol warned that normal flight operations would be disrupted across Spain, including Madrid, during a high-risk window for when the rocket is expected to fall to Earth.
The rocket, known as the CZ-5B, was launched into space by China on October 31 but failed to maintain Earth orbit and is expected to re-enter the atmosphere above the North Atlantic.
Space experts have calculated the trajectory of the 23 tonne rocket which will see it fly over Portugal and Spain and there are fears that debris from the rocket may fall. It is the largest rocket to fall to Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry in years.
“As this is an uncontrolled re-entry, it is difficult at this stage to predict exactly the trajectory of the debris and where the parts will fall,” Eurocontrol warned airlines and the public on Friday.
Madrid and Barcelona could be impacted, and in the worst case, Marseille, Rome and Athens could be at risk.
An aviation NOTAM or “Notice to Airmen” warns pilots that it is “essential that flight crew members report any observed space debris fall”.
Spanish airline Iberia warned on its Twitter account that flights could be affected throughout the day. Even after the threat has passed, flight operations may take some time to return to normal.
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