The massive core of a Chinese rocket used last week at the launch of the first stage of its space station is expected to recapture Earth’s atmosphere on May 6, according to a report.
SpaceNews, citing early tracking predictions, reported Tuesday that a U.S. Department of Defense spokesman said the agency is aware of the rocket and is tracking its location, “but its exact entry into Earth’s atmosphere cannot be identified within hours of its re-entry.” which is expected around May 8. ”
The statement said the department will continue to provide updates.
SpaceNews previously reported that the core of Long March 5B will recapture Earth sometime next week as one of the “largest cases of uncontrolled re-entry of a spacecraft and could potentially land on an inhabited area.”
Here’s what happened last time
The website estimated that the approximately 100-foot object orbits the earth every 90 minutes and zips past north of New York, Beijing and as far south as New Zealand.
The report said that despite the threat, it is likely to be spraying in one of the world’s oceans or in an isolated area.
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Jonathan McDowell, an aerospace observer, told the website that since 1990, there have been no cases of spacecraft over 10 tons “being deliberately left in orbit to reintroduce uncontrolled.”
The report said that the core phase of the rocket, when empty, is about 21 tons in mass. (You can track the rocket here.)
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“It’s potentially not good,” McDowell was quoted as saying by The Guardian. “The last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket, they ended up with large long rods of metal flying through the sky, damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast.”