A Chinese Long March 5B booster is making an uncontrolled reentry for the third time and is expected to crash into Earth sometime Saturday.
Researchers believe the 25-ton rocket stage will reenter Earth’s atmosphere July 30 just before 7:30 p.m., but their predictions could be off by plus or minus 16 hours, according to The Aerospace Corporation. The debris could land just about anywhere, but researchers believe it’ll hit somewhere in the U.S., India, Australia, Africa, Brazil, or Southeast Asia, the corporation noted in a graphic shared on Twitter.
Rocket boosters are usually the bulkiest sections, so their trajectories are designed to avoid orbit and fall back to the ocean, Live Science reported. If boosters do fall into orbit, they’re supposed to perform a type of controlled reentry using a few engine bursts, the outlet noted.
Our latest prediction for #CZ5B rocket body reentry is:
🚀31 Jul 2022 00:24 UTC ± 16 hours
Reentry will be along one of the ground tracks shown here. It is still too early to determine a meaningful debris footprint. Follow this page for updates: https://t.co/SxrMtcJnj0 pic.twitter.com/CZRQBClOAg
— The Aerospace Corporation (@AerospaceCorp) July 28, 2022
This particular booster is incapable of restarting once it’s stopped, so the machinery will spiral around the globe until it lands at a largely unpredictable location, the outlet continued. This is the third time in two years that China has allowed this type of reentry to occur, despite the well-known flaws, Live Science noted.
The first incident ended in rocket debris raining down on villages in the Ivory Coast, whereas the second plummeted into the Indian Ocean, Live Science reported. Due to their size, most of the Long March 5B boosters don’t burn up safely in the atmosphere during reentry, the outlet noted.
“The general rule of thumb is that 20—40% of the mass of a large object will reach the ground, but the exact number depends on the design of the object,” the Aerospace Corporation’s space debris expert Marlon Sorge said in an online Q&A, “In this case, we would expect about five to nine metric tons [6 to 10 tons].”
Scientists Stunned By What They’re Seeing In New Images Of Deep Spacehttps://t.co/rM38FhoXSb
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) July 13, 2022
More than 88% of the world’s population lies beneath the rocket’s orbit, Live Science continued. There is reportedly a 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 230 chance that someone will be injured within proximity of wherever the booster lands, the outlet reported. (RELATED: Strange Circles Seen In Space, Baffles Scientists)
“Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said after the second Chinese booster crashed in 2021, according to a statement. “It is clear that China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris.”