Chinese Rocket Will Crash to Earth on November 5: Here’s What We Know

Chinese Rocket Will Crash to Earth on November 5: Here’s What We Know

After delivering the final module to China’s space station, the core stage of another Chinese Long March 5B rocket will be crashing back to Earth uncontrollably this week.

The roughly 25-ton (23 metric tons) rocket stage, which launched Oct. 31 to deliver the Mengtian laboratory cabin module to the Tiangong space station, is predicted to reenter Earth’s atmosphere on Saturday, Nov. 5 at 11: 51 p.m. EDT, give or take 14 hours, according to researchers at The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies.

Although exact location of the rocket’s landing site is unknown, it could be located in the U.S., Central, South America, Africa and Asia, as well as Australia, according The Aerospace Corporation ,, a U.S. government-funded, nonprofit research center based out of California. This is the fourth uncontrolled disposal of China’s rockets in two years. In the past, metallic objects fell on villages along the Ivory Coast, while debris landed in the Indian Ocean near Maldives. Rocket chunks crashed dangerously close to villages in Borneo.

The booster section of a rocket’s first stage, which is the largest and most powerful, is the most likely to burn up on reentry. There are many ways to circumvent this problem. Engineers aim rockets to prevent their booster sections from escaping into orbit. Instead, they aim them to drop them into the ocean. Some boosters will fire an extra blast from their engines to propel them into controlled reentry if they do reach orbit.

But the Long March 5B booster engines can’t restart once they stop, causing the massive booster to spiral around Earth before landing at an undetermined location.

China has insisted that uncontrolled reentries are common practice and has dismissed concerns about potential damage as “shameless hype.” In 2021, Hua Chunying, then-spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, accused Western reporting of bias and”textbook-style double standards” in its coverage of China’s falling rockets. For instance, in March 2021, debris from a falling SpaceX rocket smashed into a farm in Washington state–an event Hua claims Western news outlets covered positively and with the use of “romantic words.” A year later, in August 2022, a second set of SpaceX debris landed on a sheep farm in Australia.

The odds that someone will be harmed by the falling rocket are small (ranging from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 230) and the risk to single individuals are even lower (between 1 in 10 trillion and 1 in 6 trillion), according to The Aerospace Corporation. Nonetheless, as the rocket’s debris path fits over roughly 88% of the world’s population, it does put the odds of harm far above the internationally accepted casualty risk threshold for uncontrolled reentries of 1 in 10,000.

“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of reentries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote in a statement after the 2021 Long March 5B crash landing. It is clear that China is not meeting responsible standards regarding their space debris

The T-shaped Tiangong space station, whose mass is roughly one-quarter that of the International Space Station, is expected to remain in low Earth orbit for at least 10 years. The station will be used by its rotating crew of three astronauts to conduct experiments and tests on new technologies such as ultracoldatomic clocks.

In recent years, China has been ramping up its space presence to catch up with the U.S. and Russia, having landed a rover on the far side of the moon in 2019 and retrieved rock samples from the moon’s surface in 2020. China has also declared that it will establish a lunar research station on the moon’s south pole by 2029.

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