Will the debris from the recently launched Chinese rocket end up in the oceans?

What happened to the last Chinese rocket remains that fell from space?

Loren Gush from the Verge reported in May 2020:

An out-of-control Chinese rocket may have dumped debris in Africa after falling from space

On Monday, a massive, out-of-control Chinese rocket fell out of the sky off the west coast of Africa, becoming one of the largest human-made objects ever to make an uncontrolled descent to Earth from space. At first, the rocket seemed to harmlessly slam into the Atlantic Ocean. But now it seems that some pieces of debris may have hit solid ground, according to local reports from Côte d’Ivoire describing metallic objects that apparently fell from the sky.


The whole ordeal was a tad scary since the Long March 5B is a truly massive rocket. When smaller-sized vehicles fall out of orbit, they will usually completely burn up in Earth’s atmosphere. But more massive objects like this rocket have a higher chance of partially surviving reentry. Normally, if a country or company puts a particularly heavy object into orbit like this one, they have a detailed plan in place for how to bring the thing down safely. China hasn’t been clear about its plans for the rocket.

“Did they perhaps have a plan to de-orbit it that went wrong?” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard and satellite tracker, tells The Verge. “The Chinese have not discussed whether they had any plan of the sort, so therefore we’re forced to assume that they didn’t.” China also doesn’t have a very good track record of making sure its rockets don’t hurt people. Rather than launch over the ocean as the US does, China will often launch its rockets over land, prompting reports of rocket parts falling over populated areas.

At 21 metric tons, the core of the Long March 5B is way more massive than the 8-metric-ton Chinese space station Tiangong-1 that careened to Earth in 2018. In fact, the Long March 5B is the fifth most massive object to make an uncontrolled descent to Earth, according to McDowell. “This is the heaviest object to make an uncontrolled reentry since 1991,” he claims.

Adding to experts’ worries, the Long March 5B core took a rare and unexpected path over heavily populated areas on Earth during its final orbit. McDowell notes that the vehicle passed over both Los Angeles and New York City just before it entered the atmosphere.

McDowell says that locals reported loud sonic booms, flashes, and falling debris around the same time that the rocket would have passed over them. Plus, the village is right in line with the rocket’s path around Earth, so he says it’s possible some pieces made it inland. https://www.theverge.com/2020/5/13/21256484/china-rocket-debris-africa-uncontrolled-reentry-long-march-5b

Washington (CNN) Chinese rocket debris is expected to crash into Earth soon. It’s not the first time.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

May 6, 2021

The large Chinese rocket that is out of control and set to reenter Earth’s atmosphere this weekend has brought about an alarming but not unprecedented situation. Space debris has crashed into Earth on a number of occasions, including last year. The good news is that debris plunging toward Earth — while unnerving — generally poses very little threat to personal safety. As Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard University, told CNN: “This is not the end of days. “Still, the episode has fueled fresh questions about space debris, uncontrolled reentry and what precautions might need to be taken, if any.


The latest Chinese rocket debri – where will it end up?

The Guardian, Thursday 29 Apr: China launched the Tianhe or “Heavenly Harmony” unmanned core module from Wenchang in China’s Hainan province on a Long-March 5B rocket . https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/29/china-launches-first-module-of-new-space-station

Reuters, May 6, 2021 Remnants of the large rocket (the core stage), are expected to plunge back through the atmosphere this weekend in an uncontrolled re-entry being tracked by U.S. Space Command, according to the U.S. military

Space command said in an online statement that the rocket’s exact point of descent into Earth’s atmosphere as it falls back from space “cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry”. The event is projected to occur around May 8th, or 9th.

(Other reports say the 10th)

Harvard-based astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell said potentially dangerous debris will likely escape incineration after streaking through the atmosphere at hypersonic speed but in all likelihood would fall into the sea, given that 70% of the world is covered by ocean. tinyurl.com/kbwan9z4

By 9News, May 6, 2021 Does Australia need to worry about the 21-tonne rocket falling back to Earth?

A 21-tonne rocket falling to Earth poses a “very low” risk to Australians – but it’s impossible to say where it will land.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told nine.com.au the government was monitoring the situation. “It is too early to know the exact timing and location of the re-entry but the risk to populated areas in Australia is very low,” the spokesperson said. “Further updates will be provided as more information becomes available regarding the trajectory and re-entry of the space object.” https://www.9news.com.au/national/rocket-crashing-to-earth-is-australia-in-danger-what-you-should-know/ef4b9a62-7c39-48d4-a652-7bbf011d246b

China’s huge rocket booster falling from space highlights orbital debris problem https://www.space.com/china-huge-rocket-falling-from-space-junk-problem

By Leonard David

Leonard David is author of “Moon Rush: The New Space Race,” which was published by National Geographic in May 2019. A longtime writer for Space.com, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades.

Space Insider, 6th of April 2021

“It really isn’t about this one rocket body … because every rocket body in Earth orbit is uncontrolled,” explains T.S. Kelso of CelesTrak, an analytical group that keeps an eye on Earth-orbiting objects.  there are 2,033 rocket bodies in Earth orbit … at least those that we have orbital data for, as there may be more classified ones. Of course, every one of them is uncontrolled. Of the 2,033, 546 belong to the U.S. and only 169 belong to China.

“Maybe we all need to be more responsible and not leave uncontrolled rocket bodies in orbit,” Kelso told Inside Outer Space.

The worst offender is Russia, with Russia, with 1,035 rocket bodies


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