Debris from a large Chinese rocket re-entered Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean at 12:45 pm ET. us space force.
in the update Post to SNS WeiboChina’s manned space agency said most of the wreckage burned up when it re-entered the Sulu Sea, the waters between Borneo and the Philippines.
Although the chances of the rocket wreckage hitting a populated area are slim, people around the world have been following its trajectory for days.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson accused China on Saturday of “not sharing specific trajectory information when the Long March 5B rocket fell to Earth.” He added that all countries “need to share this kind of information in advance to enable reliable prediction of potential debris impact risks.”
The rocket, which Nelson mentioned in a statement, launched last Sunday to orbit an additional laboratory module on China’s space station Tiangong. A rocket’s large booster stage typically returns to Earth as soon as it is jettisoned. But his 23-ton core stage of the Long March 5B was in orbit alongside the space station segment.
Due to the friction caused by the rocket rubbing against the air in the upper part of the atmosphere, the rocket quickly begins to lose altitude, making a so-called “uncontrolled re-entry” back to Earth. For the past few days, space watchers have been predicting a possible reentry over much of the Earth. Over the course of the final days, the predictions became more accurate, but forecasters were still unsure where it would descend in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of Mexico, or in the Atlantic Ocean.
This was the third flight of China’s largest rocket, the Long March 5B. The nation’s space program needed such a large and powerful vehicle to carry parts into orbit for the assembly of the space station.
The first test flight of 2020 launched a reusable astronaut capsule into orbit without a crew. Its boosters fell on villages in Ivory Coast in western Africa, causing property damage but no injuries.
Last year’s second flight carried Tianhe, the main module of the new space station Tiangong, to a water landing in the Indian Ocean. The launch added an experimental module, Wentian.
The Long March 5B included multiple parts. Her four side boosters dropped shortly after launch, crashing harmlessly in the Pacific Ocean. (It is common practice to dump spent and unwanted rocket debris into the ocean.) However, the core booster stage—an empty 10-story cylinder weighing 23 tons—can transport the Wentian module into orbit. I called.
The establishment of the laboratory facilitates the advancement of a second orbital outpost where humanity can conduct scientific research in a microgravity environment.
China plans to operate the new Tiangong base for at least 10 years and invites other countries to join. Tiangong is smaller than the aging International Space Station, which he will retire in 2030 under NASA’s current plans, but Russia has shown conflicting signs about how long it has remained a participant.
In recent decades, rocket stages that have reached orbit typically restart their engines after releasing their payloads and deorbit toward uninhabited areas like the middle of the ocean.
Typically, 20% to 40% of rockets and satellites survive reentry. This suggests that 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of Chinese boosters will reach the surface.
In October, the same rocket will be used to launch another experimental module, completing construction of the space station. The rocket’s final mission is scheduled for 2023 and will carry an orbital space telescope.
Experts say the rocket designer had an alternative to his approach. They may have stopped launching the boosters before reaching orbit. It then immediately falls to Earth in the Pacific Ocean. However, the space station module’s propulsion system had to be augmented to get the rest of the orbit.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who tracks space debris, says the Chinese did a trick similar to what NASA engineers did on the Saturn 1B rocket more than 40 years ago. suggested that it may have been adopted. The Saturn 1B second stage was large and, like the Long March 5B booster, lacked thrusters to control re-entry.
“They actually did something smart in terms of getting the fuel out,” Dr. McDowell said. “They didn’t really have rocket engine igniters, but they ejected the fuel in such a way as to lower the perigee into the atmosphere.”
Li You contributed to the research.