A massive Chinese rocket is expected to re-enter Earth this week – and experts still do not know where its wreckage will land.
The approximately 100-meter core of the Long March 5B rocket launched the 22.5-ton unmanned module for the Tianhe space station from Wenchang in Hainan province on Thursday, the Guardian reported.
Tianhe soon separated from the launcher and entered its planned initial orbit – but the main stage will probably make an uncontrolled re-entry against the background of the thickening atmosphere, SpaceNews reported.
“It’s potentially not good,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University’s Astrophysics Center, told the Guardian.
“The last time they fired a Long March 5B rocket, they found themselves with large long metal rods that flew across the sky and damaged several buildings in Côte d̵
“Most of them burned, but there were huge pieces of metal that hit the ground. We are very lucky that no one was injured, “he added.
On Tuesday, the nucleus orbited the globe every 90 minutes at about 17,150 miles per hour and an altitude of about 186 miles. It has dropped by almost 50 miles since the weekend.
His path can be seen at orbit.ing-now.com.
Based on its current orbit, the rocket orbits north to the Big Apple, Madrid and Beijing, and all the way south to southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand.
He could re-enter any point in the area, but since about 71 percent of the planet is covered in water, McDowell said the most likely result is that the debris will fall into the sea.
He added that some of the pieces that are likely to survive re-entry would be “the equivalent of a small plane crash spread over 100 miles”.
He is expected to return to Earth on May 10 – plus or minus two days.
Since 1990, nothing heavier than 10 tons has been deliberately left in orbit to re-enter uncontrollably. The main stage of the long March 5B is estimated to be around 21 tonnes, the Guardian reported.
“The bad thing is that this is really careless on the part of China. Things more than 10 tons, we do not let them fall from the sky uncontrollably intentionally, “said McDowell.