The massive core of a Chinese rocket used last week in the launch of the first phase of its space station is expected to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere on May 6, the report said.
SpaceNews, citing early tracking forecasts, said Tuesday that a U.S. Department of Defense spokesman said the agency was aware of the missile and was tracking its location, “but its exact entry point into the Earth’s atmosphere could not be determined until hours after her re-entry, which is expected around May 8. ”
The statement said the department would continue to provide updates.
SpaceNews reported earlier that the Long March 5B core will re-enter Earth sometime next week as one of “the largest cases of uncontrolled spacecraft re-entry and could potentially land in an inhabited area.”
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The website estimates that the approximately 100-foot object orbits the Earth every 90 minutes and moves north from New York, Beijing and all the way south to New Zealand.
The report says that despite the threat, it is most likely to explode in one of the world’s oceans or in an isolated area.
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Jonathan McDowell, a space flight observer, told the website that since 1990, there have been no cases of spacecraft over 10 tons being “deliberately left in orbit to enter uncontrolled.”
The report says that the main stage of the rocket, when empty, has a mass of about 21 metric tons. (You can follow the rocket here.)
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“It’s potentially not good,” McDowell said, according to The Guardian. “The last time they fired a Long March 5B rocket, they found themselves with large long metal rods flying across the sky, damaging several buildings in Côte d’Ivoire.”