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Chinese rocket debris set for re-entry in coming hours- tracking centres

WorldMay 08, 2021 08:55PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Long March-5B Y2 rocket, carrying the core module of China's space station Tianhe, takes off from Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, China April 29, 2021. China Daily via REUTERS

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -Remnants of China's largest rocket launched last week are expected to plunge back through the atmosphere in the coming hours, European and U.S. tracking centres said on Saturday.

While there were still varying estimates of where the rocket would land, it appeared increasingly likely it would not hit the United States.

China's foreign ministry said on Friday that most debris will burn on re-entry and is highly unlikely to cause any harm, after the U.S. military said that what it called an uncontrolled re-entry was being tracked by U.S. Space Command.

U.S. Space Command estimated re-entry would occur at 0211 GMT on Sunday, plus or minus one hour, while the Center for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies (CORDS) at Aerospace Corporation, a U.S. federally funded space-focused research and development centre, updated its prediction to two hours either side of 0302 GMT with the rocket re-entering over the Pacific.

EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EU SST) said its latest prediction for the timing of the re-entry of the Long March 5B rocket body was 139 minutes either side of 0232 GMT on Sunday.

EU SST said the statistical probability of a ground impact in a populated area is "low", but noted that the uncontrolled nature of the object made any predictions uncertain.

Space-Track, reporting data collected by U.S. Space Command, estimated the debris would make reentry over the Mediterranean Basin.

Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said on Twitter that it was believed the United States was safe from a potential impact but recent predictions were still tracking it from Costa Rica all the way to Australia and New Zealand.

Travelling at a speed of around 4.8 miles per second, a difference of just one minute in the time of reentry translates to hundreds of miles difference on the ground.

"This is difficult to predict and not an exact measurement," Space-Track wrote on Twitter.

MORE MISSIONS TO COME

The Long March 5B - comprising one core stage and four boosters - lifted off from China's Hainan island on April 29 with the unmanned Tianhe module, which contains what will become living quarters on a permanent Chinese space station. The rocket is set to be followed by 10 more missions to complete the station.

Long March 5 rockets have been integral to China's near-term space ambitions - from the delivery of modules and crew of its planned space station to launches of exploratory probes to the Moon and even Mars.

The Long March launched last week was the second deployment of the 5B variant since its maiden flight in May last year.

McDowell previously told Reuters there is a chance that pieces of the rocket could come down over land, perhaps in a populated area, as in May 2020, when pieces from the first Long March 5B fell on Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings. No injuries were reported.

Debris from Chinese rocket launches is not uncommon within China. In late April, authorities in the city of Shiyan, Hubei Province, issued a notice to people in the surrounding county to prepare for evacuation as parts were expected to land in the area.

"The Long March 5B reentry is unusual because during launch, the first stage of the rocket reached orbital velocity instead of falling down range as is common practice," the Aerospace Corporation said in a blog post.

"The empty rocket body is now in an elliptical orbit around Earth where it is being dragged toward an uncontrolled re-entry."

The empty core stage has been losing altitude since last week, but the speed of its orbital decay remains uncertain due to unpredictable atmospheric variables.

It is one of the largest pieces of space debris to return to Earth, with experts estimating its dry mass to be around 18 to 22 tonnes.

The core stage of the first Long March 5B that returned to Earth last year weighed nearly 20 tonnes, surpassed only by debris from the Columbia space shuttle in 2003, the Soviet Union's Salyut 7 space station in 1991, and NASA's Skylab in 1979.

Chinese rocket debris set for re-entry in coming hours- tracking centres
 

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Comments (11)
Simon Liu
Simon Liu May 09, 2021 4:46AM ET
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How much you cheered for Musk's Rocket when it crashes back down to the earth, how much you blame China this time.
David David
David9 May 09, 2021 2:38AM ET
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The West is getting so jealous of how China is able to leapfrog forward on many fronts... we banned China from the International Space station, now China has build their own... China is going to do a lot of leapfrogging going forward...
Umang Bhatt
Umang Bhatt May 09, 2021 12:08AM ET
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First the Chinese virus and now this
David David
David9 May 09, 2021 12:08AM ET
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it is called Covid 19... the WHO agrees that virus could have came from outside China...
Umang Bhatt
Umang Bhatt May 09, 2021 12:07AM ET
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First the Chinese virus and now this
Al Gore
Al Gore May 09, 2021 12:05AM ET
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very good
Anthony Anthony
Anthony Anthony May 08, 2021 9:37PM ET
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Who do I sue if I got hit by a rocket?
biden dennis
biden dennis May 08, 2021 9:37PM ET
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starting with nasa
David David
David9 May 08, 2021 9:37PM ET
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Maybe Trump?
Sab Baby
SabSabBaby May 08, 2021 7:17PM ET
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This is not the first time it happens, and every single time, the mess becomes bigger and bigger, and they don't really care!  China should be banned launching rockets forever!
biden dennis
biden dennis May 08, 2021 7:17PM ET
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then how about the mess when american launched their rockets??
David David
David9 May 08, 2021 7:17PM ET
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US is trying to make news... real scientists knows this is nothing to fear...
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun May 08, 2021 6:45PM ET
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Problem is China doesnt care if it hits u. Last time they said the remain fall into ocean but it fell onto an island.
biden dennis
biden dennis May 08, 2021 6:45PM ET
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so when the american launch their rockets, they will give any thoughts if the re-entry hits you??
Hans Billings
Hans Billings May 08, 2021 4:00PM ET
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China, dropping covid on the whole world and possibly chunks of a rocket now. Thanks, China! Maybe they should stick to making flashlights and cell phones.
David David
David9 May 08, 2021 4:00PM ET
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That is no longer facts.... the virus could very much came from outside China... China's superior health program was able to detect it first. And this rocket is nothing. 99% chance it will land in the ocean. How about when others send up the rocket and when it fell, there are no news? Explain to us...
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes May 08, 2021 4:00PM ET
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The flashlight you have is going to fall on your face. You better throw it out
Sab Baby
SabSabBaby May 08, 2021 4:00PM ET
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David David  Seriously?  Within a month the virus became a problem, China immediately knew the drug combination for treatment.  That's REALLY fast unless they knew the virus composition to start with.
Frank Luo
Frank Luo May 08, 2021 4:00PM ET
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Nobody can predict a virus outbreak. Like in 2009, H1N1 outbreaked in the U.S. but nobody blamed U.S. for not controlling the spreading. On the other hand, China has well controlled the virus in Feb 2020. Politicians did a terrible job of fighting with the virus. The easiest way is to just blame China. BTW, why Chinese people should stick to make fundamental stuff? Everybody on this planet has the right to pursue a better life and advance their technology. History will prove that cold war and white supremacy ideology will only make the U.S. weaker.
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes May 08, 2021 4:00PM ET
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You didn't know facts from fictions. Yesterday, the first Chinese vaccine was approved by WHO. So it isn't within a month they know how to cure. You Sunday made up facts which are not accurate at all.
Alan Rice
Alan Rice May 08, 2021 12:49PM ET
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We all knew it was just a matter of time until the crud n the atmosphere started falling out in chunks.
David David
David9 May 08, 2021 12:48PM ET
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When the chinese shoot the rocket up, why there were not much coverage? Then now there, why the are show much coverage on the parts that is falling...
Tony Barnes
Tony Barnes May 08, 2021 12:48PM ET
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The West only reports negative issues on China, Russia, Iran and the like. This is nothing new.
David JUSTIC
David JUSTIC May 08, 2021 12:48PM ET
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Why do not do your own research? why?
David David
David9 May 08, 2021 12:48PM ET
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Please explain to us... we waiting...
 
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