A large Out-of-control Chinese rocket is expected to crash land this weekend and has caused alarm.
The Pentagon says it’s tracking the orbit of a 21-ton Chinese rocket stage that will tumble into Earth’s atmosphere sometime on Saturday—and could possibly burst into a hail of space junk over a major metropolitan area.
The huge, 100-foot-tall (30 meters) core of a Chinese rocket is tumbling wildly through low-Earth orbit and could make an uncontrolled reentry through the atmosphere in the coming days, according to news reports.
This morning's data on the altitude-versus-time of the Tianhe / CZ-5B objects. The core stage orbit continues to slowly decay as expected. pic.twitter.com/E8EPJ9yzRu
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) May 4, 2021
Most pieces will burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere before having a chance to make an impact on the surface. But parts of larger objects, like rockets, can survive reentry and potentially reach populated areas.
The same type of rocket crashed into West Africa and the Atlantic Ocean in May 2020, possibly damaging an inhabited village.
Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist and orbital object tracker, noted at the time that the Long March 5B core was the heaviest object to make an uncontrolled reentry through the atmosphere in nearly three decades.
Before breaking apart, the core weighed about 19.6 tons (17,800 kilograms); the last time a heavier object made an uncontrolled reentry was in 1991, when the 43-ton (39,000 kg) Salyut-7 Soviet space station fell through the atmosphere over Argentina, McDowell said on Twitter.