A 23-ton piece of space debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket launch landed safely in the south-central Pacific Ocean after raising questions about where it will land once again.
The massive piece of debris in question was left over from the core stage of a Long March 5B rocket used to launch the third and last section to China Tiangong Space Station on Monday (October 31). As in previous launches of the same rocket, China allowed the center stage to reach orbit with no way to push itself back to Earth in a safe manner. This happens a somewhat common occurrenceas the Long March 5B was not designed with features that would allow it to be safely removed after launch.
This means once again, people watched and created predictions about where and when the rocket’s space debris would fall based on the best available data. Fortunately, the massive rocket landed safely in the Pacific Ocean, according to the US Space Administration. “#USSPACECOM can confirm that the People’s Republic of China Long March 5B #CZ5B rocket re-entered the atmosphere over the south-central Pacific Ocean at 4:01am MDT/10:01 UTC on 11/4 “, the order states. he tweeted this morning (opens in new tab) (November 4). Space Command added that for more details, “we refer you once again to #PRC” (People’s Republic of China).
Related: Another huge piece of Chinese space junk falls to Earth. “Let’s go again,” say the experts
As the missile’s carcass was tracked during uncontrolled reentry, it caused enough alarm that a section airspace was closed in Spain (opens in new tab) as a precaution, according to the Spanish air traffic control blog Controladores Aéreos.
This is the fourth such space debris event in recent years from launches by the China National Space Agency. In July 2022, a 25-ton Long March 5B main stage fell into Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean. Before that in April 2021, the core stage left over from another Tiangong space station mission littered the same body of water. And in May 2020, pieces of a Long March 5B hit the ground over West Africa, reportedly leaving chunks of space junk littering the throughout Ivory Coast (opens in new tab).
#USSPACECOM can confirm that the People’s Republic of China’s #CZ5B Long March 5B rocket re-entered the atmosphere over the south-central Pacific Ocean at 4:01am. MDT/10:01 UTC on 11/4. For details on the uncontrolled re-entry impact site, we once again refer you to #PRC.November 4, 2022
Other rockets are designed with measures to ensure their core stages are driven into the ocean after launch, while others, like SpaceX’s Falcon 9, are designed to come down in one piece and be reused. China’s most powerful missile has no such measures.
Unfortunately, there are no international agreements to prevent these incidents from happening again in the future, said Marlon Sorge, Executive Director of The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Debris Reentry and Orbital Studies. during a media briefing on Wednesday (November 2). “And the reality is that there are no real laws, treaties, internationally that govern what you’re allowed to do in terms of readmission,” Sorge said. “So there’s not really a direct legal way to control what happens internationally.”
Currently, China’s space agency has planned at least six more launches for the Long March 5B rocket, the shortest of which could take place in mid-2023.