It’s not China’s month I guess, maybe it is karma for making fun of India’s situation. Anyways, we all know last week China successfully launched their Tianhe module for their own Space Station called the Chinese Space Station or CSS. The module was carried out of orbit by a Chinese Long March 5B. However, the rocket that sent the module up into low earth orbit accidentally entered temporary orbit as well.
If not dealt with, this could be one of the largest ever uncontrolled re-entries of a space rocket to date. According to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Astrophysics Center at Harvard, “it’s potentially not good. Last time they launched a Long March 5B Rocket, they ended up with big long rods of metal flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in the Ivory Coast.”.
This means that if the pieces fall in a populated area, we’re looking at a lot of damage and possibly causalities as well. The European Space Agency predicted that the rocket is likely to fall back to Earth around May 9th with an error rate of one approximately one day. Just yesterday, it was reported that the rocket is orbiting the Earth once every 90 minutes, traveling at around 17,149 mph or 27,600km/h and at an altitude of more than 186 miles or 300 kilometers.
The rocket’s current orbit makes it pass over major cities like New York, Madrid, and Beijing but it could re-enter anywhere along its route. As mentioned by McDowell this isn’t the first time a Long March 5B has made an uncontrolled re-entry. The same happened in May last year which led Jim Brindestine to criticize China. He said that the situation was dangerous and that they were lucky that nobody got hurt.
The situation is really alarming, with China planning to send 10 more such missions to Space in order to construct the Chinese Space Station. McDowell thinks that it’s absurd that this Long March 5B was not programmed for a controlled re-entry. The CSS is China’s effort to have the third-largest space program after the US and Russia.
It’s currently unclear when and where the re-entry will take place. The predicted trajectories can be followed on many websites just a google away but in the end, these are all predictions. It is up to the authorities to take necessary precautions.