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Watch out from below! The Chinese rocket with a heavy lift is due to uncontrolled re-entry within days

On April 28, China successfully launched the main module of its Tianhe space station with the latest version of the Long March 5B heavy lift amplifier. This rocket, designed to launch large objects into low Earth orbit, is unique in that the first stage of 33.16 m (108.8 feet) carries the payload all the way to orbit, instead of being released at a lower height. Unfortunately, despite international efforts to limit unnecessary space debris, the first phase of the Long March 5B amplifier is now rolling into space and is expected to make an uncontrolled re-entry sometime in the next few days.

The massive booster received COSPAR ID 2021

-035-B, and ground-based tracking stations are currently monitoring it closely to try to determine when and where it will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. At the time of writing, it is in a relatively low orbit of 169 x 363 km, which must disintegrate quickly, given the large area of ​​the object. Due to the variables involved, it is impossible to determine where the booster will go so far, but the fear is that if this happens in a populated area, debris from the 21-metric ton (46,000 pounds) amplifier could hit the ground.

The main module of Tianhe.

This is the second launch of Long March 5B, the first took place on May 5, 2020. This booster was also left in low orbit and made an uncontrolled re-entry six days later. During a meeting of the Regulatory and Policy Committee of the NASA Advisory Board, Administrator Jim Bridenstein said that if the rocket had been recited just 30 minutes earlier, the debris could have descended over the continental United States. Items suspected to be the remains of Long March 5B have been found in Africa, although no injuries have been reported.

China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, made an uncontrolled re-entry in 2018. It is estimated that most of the 8,500 kg (18,700 pounds) burned up as it penetrated the atmosphere and everything else , has fallen harmlessly South Pacific. While small satellites are increasingly designed to decay safely on re-entry, large objects like these pose a more complex problem as we expand our presence in low Earth orbit.

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