SHANGHAI – Remnants of China’s largest rocket launched last week are expected to fall back into the atmosphere in the coming hours, European and U.S. observatories said Saturday.
Although there were still differing estimates of where the rocket would land, it seemed increasingly that it would not hit the United States.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Friday that most of the debris was burning inside the re-entry and that no harm was likely after the U.S. military said the space command was monitoring what it called an uncontrolled re-entry.
The U.S. space command is estimated to occur at plus or minus one hour on Sunday at 0211 GMT, while the orbital reuse and debris exploration center (CORDS) at the aerospace corporation, a US-funded space center research and development center, has been updated to 0302 GMT. Entering.
EU March Space Surveillance and Surveillance (EU SST) released its latest estimate of 139 minutes on both sides of the Long March 5B rocket re-entry into the body at 0232 GMT on Sunday.
The EU SSD stated that the statistical probability of land impact in a populated area was “low”, but noted that the unrestricted nature of the material made any prediction uncertain.
Space-Track reported data collected by the U.S. Space Command and estimated that debris would re-enter the Mediterranean bed.
Harvard-based astronomer Jonathan McDowell said on Twitter that the United States is believed to be safe from a potential impact, but recent forecasts are monitoring it from Costa Rica to Australia and New Zealand.
Traveling at a speed of about 4.8 miles per second, a difference of one minute in reuse time represents a difference of hundreds of miles on the ground.
“This is difficult to predict, not an accurate measure,” Space-Track wrote on Twitter.
Many more tasks to come
Long March 5B – which includes a main stage and four boosters – was launched from Hainan Island, China on April 29 with the unmanned Tianhe block, which will become a permanent Chinese space station residence. The rocket is to be set up with 10 more passengers to complete the station.
The long March 5 rockets are integrated into China’s nearby space aspirations – from delivering its planned space station crews and crew to launching exploration of the moon and even Mars.
The second deployment of the Long March 5B variant, which was launched last week, follows its first flight in May last year.
McDowell previously told Reuters pieces of the rocket were likely to land on the ground, probably in a populated area, in May 2020, when pieces of the first Long March 5B fell on Ivory Coast and damaged several buildings. No injuries were reported.
Debris from Chinese rocket launches is not uncommon in China. In late April, authorities in Xi’an, Hubei Province, sent out notices to people in the surrounding district to prepare for evacuation as parts of the area were expected to land.
“Long March 5B resale is unusual because during launch, the first stage of the rocket reaches orbit instead of falling off the range, which is common practice,” Aerospace Corporation said in a blog post.
“The hollow rocket body is now in an elliptical orbit around the Earth, where it is being pulled towards an uncontrolled re-entry.”
The empty core has been losing altitude since last week, but the speed of its orbital decay is uncertain due to unpredictable atmospheric variables.
It is also one of the largest space debris to return to Earth, with experts estimating its dry mass at 18 to 22 tons.
The main phase of the first Long March 5B, which returned to Earth last year, weighed nearly 20 tons, surpassing only debris from the Columbia spacecraft in 2003, the Soviet Union’s Saliat 7 space station in 1991, and NASA’s Skylob in 1979.
Report by Andrew Calbright, Winnie Jaw, Gabriella Porter, Peter Szekley and Idris Ali; Editing by Ryan Woo, Simon Cameron-Moore, Diane Kraft and Daniel Wallis