News, Space

Long March rocket falling (Update)

The rocket Long March 5B Y2, launched on 29 April which transported the space module Tianhe, lost control and can fall anywhere on Earth.

Source: Live Science

The huge, 100-foot-tall (30 meters) core of a Chinese rocket is tumbling wildly through low-Earth orbit and could make an uncontrolled reentry through the atmosphere in the coming days, according to news reports.

Following the module’s deployment, the rocket core was expected to make maneuvers for a controlled reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, according to SpaceNews — however, that didn’t happen.

Ground-based radars soon detected the rocket core tumbling through orbit, oscillating between altitudes of 106 and 231 miles (170 and 372 kilometers) above Earth’s surface and traveling at more than 15,840 mph (25,490 km/h). (The U.S. military designated the object 2021-035B, and you can monitor its progress around the planet here.)

The drag of Earth’s atmosphere will eventually tug the rocket core out of orbit — however, given the object’s high speed and variable altitude, it’s impossible to predict exactly where or when it will fall toward Earth’s surface. Much of the core will likely burn up in the planet’s atmosphere, SpaceNews reported, but there is a chance that some chunks of debris will survive the reentry and rain down on the land or ocean.

This, sadly, wouldn’t be the first time. In May 2020, a Long March 5B rocket slammed through the atmosphere, partially burning upon its descent, Live Science previously reported. The core fell largely into the Atlantic Ocean, but some debris landed in West Africa. According to the South China Morning Post, some chunks of debris crashed into inhabited villages in Côte d’Ivoire, though thankfully no casualties were reported.

Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist and orbital object tracker, noted at the time that the Long March 5B core was the heaviest object to make an uncontrolled reentry through the atmosphere in nearly three decades. Before breaking apart, the core weighed about 19.6 tons (17,800 kilograms); the last time a heavier object made an uncontrolled reentry was in 1991 when the 43-ton (39,000 kg) Salyut-7 Soviet space station fell through the atmosphere over Argentina, McDowell wrote on Twitter.

According to the source, probably the debris will fall on May 9.

Long March 5
Rocket core is the central part that links side boosters and the payload in warhead. Source: Civilsdaily.


The rocket’s debris fell on Indian Ocean, at north of Maldives.

Location of Maldives. Source: Google Maps.

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