Debris From China Rocket Launched In April May Hit Abuja, Other Cities

James Marshall
May 9, 2021

The roughly 100-foot-long remnant, a section that launched the main module of China's first space station, would be among the biggest space debris to fall to Earth.

Don Pollacco, a physics professor at the England's University of Warwick, said, "It will hit the atmosphere, bounce around a bit and it's correct to say most of the planet is covered by water, so that's where it will likely land".

By early Sunday morning the latest prediction for when re-entry would happen was 190 minutes either side of 2.11pm (New Zealand time) today (0211 GMT), the EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EUSST) said.

China has not released the expected location but said it would release information in a "timely" way.

Wang told reporters in Beijing that the rocket would mostly burn up on reentry and "the probability of this process causing harm on the ground is extremely low".

Harvard-based astronomer Jonathan McDowell tweeted on Saturday: "New 18SPCS Space Force prediction narrows things down to one orbit: Costa Rica, Haiti, Iberia, Sardinia, Italy, Greece and Crete, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, New Zealand".

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

The rocket was launched last week, carrying the first module of China's space station into orbit.

The station module successfully entered its planned orbit, but the 30-metre, 21-tonne stage of the rocket is now also in orbit and expected to make an uncontrolled re-entry.

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

While the odds are good that any debris will fall into the ocean, debris from another Long March 5B rocket fell on parts of Ivory Coast in May 2020, causing damage to some buildings. No injuries were reported.

The 10-story, 23-ton piece of booster rocket will plummet back to Earth a week after it was launched by the Chinese government.

"The Long March 5B re-entry 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.

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.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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