The Long March 5B rocket, which carried a Chinese space station module, has fallen into low earth orbit and is now at risk of crashing.
The rocket successfully launched the Tianhe module last week, which will become the living quarters of the future Chinese Space Station (CSS). Sadly, the 30-meter-long rocket has also reached orbit and is now one of the biggest launches ever to perform an uncontrolled reentry.
Rockets rarely reach the speed necessary to reach orbit, but they currently circle the world once every 90 minutes, or seven kilometers every second. It passes just north of New York, Madrid and Beijing, and as far south as Chile and New Zealand.
It is feared that the rocket may land on an inhabited area; The last time a Long March rocket was launched in May 2020, debris was reported falling on villages in Ivory Coast. The speed of the rocket means scientists still don’t know when it will fall, but it will likely do so before May 10, 2021.
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Should we be afraid of falling from the debris?
Since space agencies cannot predict where the rocket will fall, a detailed risk assessment for those concerned about falling debris is not available.
However, ESA says people shouldn’t worry about being hit by falling debris.
“In general, most objects burn completely in the atmosphere on re-entry. Parts of larger objects, or components made of high melting point materials, can survive to reach the ground or the ocean surface, ”he says.
As these are rare events and about 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water while large parts of the Earth’s surface are not inhibited, the risk to a single individual is of several orders. of magnitude less than the commonly accepted risks, such as those encountered while driving a car, taken in everyday life. “
Adam smithMay 4, 2021 3:26 PM
Where is he going to avoid?
While we may not know where it will land, scientists do know where the Long March 5B will avoid.
Since the orbit of CZ-5B (the debris classification) is tilted 41 degrees from the Earth’s axis, debris will not fall further than north or south of latitude.
“Therefore, the area at risk includes any part of the Earth’s surface between 41N and 41S latitude. This, briefly, and as far as ESA member states are concerned, includes parts of Spain, Italy and Greece, ”says ESA.
Adam smithMay 4, 2021 2:02 PM
What will happen when the rocket returns to Earth
While it’s likely that the rocket will fall into the ocean – simply due to the large percentage of Earth covered in water – astronomers believe some parts of the rocket will survive reentry.
It would be “the equivalent of a small plane crash scattered over 100 miles,” according to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University’s Center for Astrophysics.
At this time, it is very difficult to predict the fall of the rocket, but it is expected to return to Earth on May 10. Once the specific day has been confirmed, experts can apparently reduce its landing time to a six-hour window.
“The main stage of Long March 5B is seven times as massive as the second stage of Falcon 9 which caught the press’s attention a few weeks ago when it came back over Seattle and threw some tanks. under pressure on Washington state, ”McDowell also mentioned. “I think by current standards it is unacceptable to let him in in an uncontrolled manner. Since 1990, nothing over 10 tonnes has been deliberately left in orbit to enter unchecked. “
Adam smithMay 4, 2021 12:22 PM
Long March 5B: Rocket Tracking
Currently, the rocket meets these parameters, but has dropped again today. At 10:00 GMT, as the rocket was over Africa, it dropped closer to 160 kilometers.
Amateur observations from the ground show regular flashes of the rocket in the night sky, suggesting it is out of control.
It is likely that much of the rocket will fail when it crashes, but debris will remain.
“It is always difficult to assess the amount of surviving mass and the number of fragments without knowing the design of the object, but a reasonable ‘rule of thumb’ is about 20-40% of the original dry mass.” , Holger Krag, said the head of the space security program office of the European Space Agency.
Adam smithMay 4, 2021 12:10 P.M.