On July 31, the core of the 25-ton Chinese Long March 5B rocket, which carried the second unit of the Chinese space station Tiangong, currently under construction, will fall into orbit uncontrollably on Earth. According to the space company’s U.S. Center for Orbital Debris Studies (Cordes), the rocket is likely to remain in flight for about a week, and will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere around 9:30 a.m. Italian time on July 31, with a degree of uncertainty 22 hours. more or less. However, it is still too early to understand where it will fall: based on its orbit, re-entry will take place at a point between 41°N latitude (a parallel with the Earth that passes at Sardinia’s elevation) and 41°S, but the area will gradually narrow as it approaches the event.
Choosing this dangerous method of return puts China under accusation. “Countries that travel into space must reduce the risks to people and property on Earth from re-entry of space objects,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said when a similar event in May 2021 caused the same controversy. “It is clear that China does not meet the standards of accountability for space debris,” adds Nelson. “It is imperative that China and all countries traveling in space, as well as commercial entities, act responsibly and transparently – adds Nelson – to ensure the long-term security, stability and sustainability of activities in space.”
The core of the rocket will not burn up completely in the atmosphere“We expect between 5 and 9 tons to reach Earth,” said Cordes, who analyzed data collected by the US Space Monitoring Network. The main stages of most orbital-class rockets are designed to descend shortly after takeoff, with a guided landing at sea or sparsely populated parts of land, or to make landings so that they can be reused, such as the Falcon 9 of Space X. Instead, the Long core will return March 5B to Earth in an uncontrolled manner, as also happened in previous missions: after the first launch on May 5, 2020, the main field fell off the west coast of Africa, while in May 2021 in the Indian Ocean. None of these accidents caused any damage, but the potential danger has led experts to reprimand China for allowing such uncontrolled debris to occur.
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