22.5-Ton Space Debris From Chinese Rocket Launch May Hit Inhabited Area


A 22.5-ton chunk of space debris from a Chinese rocket launch is expected to crash back to Earth in the next few days and is believed to be in danger of hitting an inhabited area.

SpaceNews.com reports Beijing launched the initial module in its permanent Chinese space station last week, which was carried by a Long March 5B, a variant of China's largest rocket, that detached successfully, but the 22.5-ton rocket is now expected to make an uncontrolled crash back to Earth in the coming days.

According to the website, the Long March 5B is designed to specifically launch space station modules into low Earth orbit by using a core stage and four side boosters to place its payload directly into low Earth orbit.

However, the core stage is now also in orbit, which is leading to a likely uncontrolled reentry toward Earth involving one of the largest uncontrolled reentries of a spacecraft that could potentially land on an inhabited area.

Most expendable rocket first stages take place prior to reaching orbital velocity and reenter the Earth's atmosphere and land in a set zone. Other larger, second stages perform deorbit burns to lower altitude, reduce time in orbit and limit chances of collision with other spacecrafts or immediately reenter the atmosphere.

Some speculated that the Long March 5B core would perform an active maneuver to deorbit itself, but that hasn't been the case. During a press conference on Thursday at Wenchang, Wang Jue, Commander-in-Chief of the Long March 5B launch vehicle, said the second Long March 5B showed improvements from its first launch, but a deorbit maneuver was not stated.

You can read more about the incident here.

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