The huge, 30-meter (30 meters) core of a Chinese rocket is trampled wildly through a lowThe Earth orbit and may make uncontrolled entry into the atmosphere in the coming days, the news reported.
The core belongs to the Long March 5B rocket (a version of the largest rocket in China), which successfully launched a module into orbit for China’s planned Tianhe space station on Wednesday (April 28th). After the deployment of the module, the rocket core is expected to make maneuvers for a controlled return to the Earth’s atmosphere, according to SpaceNews – However, this did not happen.
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The sliding of the Earth’s atmosphere will eventually pull the rocket core out of orbit – however, given the high speed and variable altitude of the object, it is impossible to predict exactly where and when it will fall to the earth’s surface. Much of the core is likely to burn in the planet’s atmosphere, SpaceNews reports, but there is a chance that some pieces of debris will survive re-entry and rain on land or ocean.
Unfortunately, this would not be the first time. In May 2020, a rocket with a long March 5B samples through the atmosphere, partially burning on its descent, Previously, Live Science reported. The nucleus has largely fallen into the Atlantic Ocean, but some debris has landed in West Africa. According to South China Morning Post, some pieces of debris shattered in populated villages in Côte d’Ivoire, although fortunately no casualties were reported.
Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist tracking orbital objects, noted at the time that the core of Long March 5B was the heaviest object to make uncontrolled entry into the atmosphere for nearly three decades. Before disintegrating, the core weighed about 19.6 tons (17,800 kilograms); the last time a heavier object entered uncontrollably was in 1991, when the 43-ton (39,000 kg) Soviet Salyut-7 space station fell through the atmosphere over Argentina, McDowell. wrote on Twitter.
In a recent interview with SpaceNews, McDowell noted that the nucleus, which is currently rolling into orbit, is about seven times more massive than the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which light up the sky over Seattle about a month ago. If the nucleus returns at night, it can produce a similar light show.
It was the first of 11 planned launches involved in the construction of China’s Tianhe space station, or “Heavenly Harmony,” according to SpaceNews. The station is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Originally published in Live Science.