From space to the bottom of the sea. This is how the remains of the Chinese Long March B5 rocket have ended, launched last week to put one of the modules of the future Chinese space station into orbit, and which was later out of control.
Most of the debris from the rocket disintegrated this Sunday morning when it collided with the atmosphere and fell into the Indian Ocean without causing damage; the coordinates are around the Maldives islands, south of India.
The Space-Track website of the US Space Control Squadron confirmed the coordinates through a tweet.
The size of the object, with an estimated mass of between 17 and 21 tons and a size of approximately 30 meters, and the speed at which it was moving – some 28,000 kilometers per hour – led to the activation of several of the most important space surveillance services. of the world, including the Pentagon or the European Union Space Surveillance and Tracking Service (EUSST).
This European agency had already advanced last Friday that the remains of the rocket would fall in a region of the Earth covered for the most part by the ocean or uninhabited areas, and that the statistical probability of an impact on the ground in populated areas was low. “
“Exaggerations that only seek to discredit the Asian country.”
China also asserted on Friday that it was “highly unlikely” that the debris from the rocket would cause damage upon its return to Earth, and that it was most plausible that it would disintegrate during its re-entry into the atmosphere.
In this sense, the Chinese expert Song Zhongping told the Global Times that it is “completely normal” for rocket debris to return to Earth, which is “a common practice carried out by many other countries, such as the United States.” .
According to this newspaper, the rocket was composed of “light materials” and that, therefore, “it was to be expected that most of the remains would disintegrate when in contact with the atmosphere.”
These days, the local media have accused the foreign press of sensationalism and described the information in this regard as “exaggerations that only seek to discredit the Asian country.”
One of the largest pieces of debris to return to Earth
Some specialists considered the wreckage of Long March 5B – used to launch one of the modules of the future Chinese space station into space – as one of the largest pieces of debris to return to Earth, hence its continued surveillance.
American scientists also criticized that the Chinese special program allowed the uncontrolled re-entry of such a large rocket, and NASA administrator Bill Nelson reprimanded the Asian country for “not complying with the standards of responsibility regarding its space debris.”
A similar rocket landed on Ivory Coast
The criticisms arise because this family of rockets lacks an additional propulsion system that allows them to return to a specific area of the Earth, which already caused in 2000 that one of them fell in the Atlantic Ocean and on the Ivory Coast .
A Chinese space station by 2023
The Chinese space program is planning up to eleven such launches between 2021 and 2022, in order to complete the construction of its space station before the start of 2023.
According to the official Chinese news agency, Xinhua, the space station will orbit the Earth at an altitude of between 340 and 450 kilometers, and is designed to last about 10 years, although experts are confident that it can last more than 15.
The space station is just one of the objectives of the Chinese space program, which also plans to reach Mars in the coming weeks using the Tianwen-1 probe.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.