The huge, 30 meter high (30 meter) core of a Chinese rocket tumbles wildly through lowthe earth in orbit and could make an uncontrolled re-entry through the atmosphere in the coming days, according to news reports.
The core belongs to a Long March 5B rocket (a version of China’s largest rocket) that successfully launched a module for China’s planned Tianhe space station into orbit on Wednesday (April 28). After the implementation of the module, the rocket core was expected to maneuver for a controlled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, according to SpaceNews – however, it did not happen.
Ground-based radars soon spotted the rocket, which tumbled through orbit, oscillating between altitudes of 1
Pulls from the Earth’s atmosphere will eventually pull the rocket core out of orbit – but given the object’s high velocity and variable height, it is impossible to predict exactly where or when it will fall towards the Earth’s surface. Much of the core is likely to burn up in the planet’s atmosphere, SpaceNews reported, but there is a chance that some lumps of dirt will survive re-entry and rain down on Earth or the ocean.
Unfortunately, this was not the first time. In May 2020, a long March 5B rocket slammed through the atmosphere and partially burned up on its descent, WordsSideKick.com previously reported. The core fell largely into the Atlantic Ocean, but some debris landed in West Africa. According to South China Morning Post, some lumps of rubbish crashed into inhabited villages off the coast of Côte d’Ivoire, but fortunately 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 re-entry through the atmosphere for nearly three decades. Before the core weighed apart, it weighed approx. 19.6 tons (17,800 kg); The last time a heavier object made an uncontrolled re-entry was in 1991, when the 43-tonne (39,000 kg) Salyut-7 Soviet space station fell through the atmosphere over Argentina, McDowell wrote on Twitter.
In a recent interview with SpaceNews, McDowell noted that the nucleus currently tumbling through orbit is about seven times more massive than the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which illuminated skies over Seattle about a month ago. If the core comes back at night, it can produce a similar light show.
This was the first of 11 planned launches involved in the construction of China’s Tianhe or “Heavenly Harmony” space station, according to SpaceNews. The station is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Originally published on WordsSideKick.com.