China launched a space rocket larger than 20 tons that will perform a uncontrolled re-entry to Earth, scientists warned.
This Tuesday, China National Space Administration (CNSA for the acronym in English) launched the third and last experimental module Tiangong Space Station, Mengtianon a rocket Veliki Marš 5B (CZ-5B).
Typically, a rocket’s first stage and its auxiliary boosters are not designed to reach orbit. Their trajectories are planned so that they land in a safe area, usually the ocean.
However, the case of the rocket Long March 5B It is unusual because this it reached orbit on liftoff, instead of falling earlier as is the usual practice. This means you can no longer control where they will re-enter. Therefore, its empty body is now in a nearly circular orbit around Earth, where it is being pulled into an uncontrolled reentry.
The main drive, which is the part that will fall off, weighs approx 22.5 tonsabout the size of a A building of 10 floors. Scientists hope so 5 and 9 tons survive re-entry and impact on Earth’s surface. Furthermore, they warn that more than 88% of the population the world lives under the potential footprint of where they land.
Experts from the Center for Orbital Debris and Re-entry Studies (ROPES for the acronym in English) of the Aerospace Corporation are actively tracking the trajectory of the CZ-5B body. According to their predictions, it will hit the Earth this Saturday November 5 at 4:51 UTC, with a margin of error of 14 hours.
For its part, the European Union’s operational centers for space surveillance and tracking (EUSST) foresee a return to late Friday or Saturday.
Since a piece of rocket debris is moving at a speed greater than 27 thousand kilometers per houra variation of a few minutes in estimates means a difference of hundreds of kilometers at the impact site.
“Uncertainty about where large debris will eventually fall represents a degree of risk to human safety and damage to property which is significantly above the commonly accepted thresholds,” CORDS warned.
Factors such as the uncontrolled form of descent and its size, which is too large to burn up completely in the Earth’s atmosphere, pose risks high enough to require additional preventive preparation worldwide, the Center emphasizes.
Similar uncontrolled re-entries of Long March missiles have occurred 2020, 2021 and the last time in July 2022. two of which resulted in large debris falling near populated areas. Debris from this year fell into the ocean near the coast of the Philippines.
According to 1967 United Nations Outer Space Treatycountries retain ownership of the objects they launch into space, even after those objects re-enter and return to Earth.
The country that launched the facility, in this case China, could request the return of parts that survived re-entry. The treaty also says that the named nation is internationally responsible for the damage.