China says remnants of rocket landed in Indian Ocean

Lula Sharp
May 9, 2021

China's Long March 5B rocket was used to launch the main module of its first permanent space station to host astronauts long term, the latest success for a programme that has realised a number of its growing ambitions in recent years.

The debris is in freefall and is likely to enter Earth's atmosphere in the early hours of Sunday, the USA military has predicted Beijing, China: A huge portion of a Chinese rocket is set to make an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere in the weekend and the latest prediction suggest that the debris is likely to fall in a populated area.

"The probability of causing harm. on the ground is extremely low", Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said last week.

Space-Track, using U.S. military data, tweeted that the window for re-entry is now predicted to be 0104-0304 GMT Sunday, but cautioned that the uncertainty about the timing made the location hard to pinpoint.

EU Space Surveillance and Tracking said the chances of the rocket hitting populated areas is "low", but cautioned that uncontrolled reentries come with "uncertainties".

US Space Command released information online giving the projected time of reentry, but also says there is a window of plus or minus 60 minutes.

Then US Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 16 2015
Then US Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 16 2015

Debris from the Long March 5B has had some people looking warily skyward since shortly after it blasted off from China's Hainan island on April 29, but the China Manned Space Engineering Office said most of the debris was burnt up in the atmosphere.

The Long March 5B rocket launch. No injuries were reported.

When completed by late 2022, the T-shaped Chinese Space Station is expected to weigh about 66 tons, considerably smaller than the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and will weigh about 450 tons when completed. It's directly on the CZ-5B reentry track, 2100 km downrange from the Space-Track reentry location.

The debris from a Chinese rocket could hit Abuja this weekend.

The empty core stage has been losing altitude since last week, but the speed of its orbital decay remains uncertain due to unpredictable atmospheric variables.

The 18-ton rocket that fell last May was the heaviest debris to fall uncontrolled since the former Soviet space station Salyut 7 in 1991.

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