Wreckage of a chinese rocket

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Wreckage of a chinese rocket

The Changzheng 5-B rocket launched the base module of the future Chinese space station into orbit

The spent stage of the Chinese carrier rocket “Changzheng 5-B” (literally translated as “Long March”) fell into the Indian Ocean, the Chinese authorities said. The entry of the stage into the earth's atmosphere was uncontrolled, and US military experts expressed fears that debris could fall on populated areas.

The Changzheng 5-B rocket launched the first module of the Chinese space station into orbit.

Chinese state media report that the stage entered the atmosphere on Sunday at 10:24 am Beijing time (02:24 GMT, 05:24 Moscow time). Most of it burned up in the atmosphere, but some of the debris fell into the ocean in the area west of the Maldives.

US Space Command has confirmed that “the Chinese Changzheng 5-B rocket has entered the atmosphere over the Arabian Peninsula.” At the same time, the US military noted that they “do not know where the wreckage fell – on land or on water.” The mass of the stage that returned to Earth was 18 tons.

China, which has set itself the ambitious task of raising its status in the international arena, has already invested billions of dollars in the space program and is actively catching up with the United States, Russia and Europe.

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Unpredictable fall

The Changzheng 5-B rocket was launched on April 29 and launched the base module of the future Chinese space station into orbit. The height of its elliptical orbit ranged from 160 (at perigee) to 375 (at apogee) km and gradually decreased.

Wreckage of a chinese rocket

The further rate of decline depended on the density of the atmosphere, and it was extremely difficult to calculate this. Experts assumed that most of the stage would burn out before reaching the surface, but they did not rule out that some of its hard alloy elements could survive this flight. “The likelihood of disruption to flights or harm on the ground is extremely small,” said Wang Wenbin, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The possible trajectory of the missile's fall was actively discussed on social networks and at the international level.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did not even fail to declare: “We have great capabilities, but we do not plan to shoot it down yet.” Hopefully, he said, the rocket will land “in a place where it won't harm anyone.”

Nevertheless, the minister still noted that the Chinese acted irresponsibly, allowing the uncontrolled descent of the stage from orbit, stressing that the countries of the “space league” should act more prudently.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell also sees negligence in the actions of the Chinese side.

“This is the second launch, and we know that after the first launch of practically the same missile, debris was found in the territory of Cote d'Ivoire,” he recalls.

In turn, a space debris specialist from the University of Southampton, Hugh Lewis, recalls that over 60 years of space exploration, a huge amount of debris has been left in orbit, and the responsibility for this lies primarily with the United States and Russia.

“Don't forget that there are about 900 rocket stages in low orbits, which remain there after almost every new launch, and their total mass is several times greater than what will enter the dense layers of the atmosphere on the weekend,” Dr. Lewis wrote on Twitter. …

Current practice calls for spent stages to be removed from orbit as soon as possible. In the case of the main booster stages, they usually make only one revolution, after which they fall into the ocean or to the ground (the American company SpaceX safely returns the steps back on their own so that they can be used again).

For the upper stages, which must bring the payload to the ory with maximum accuracy and can make several turns, their own engine is provided, which should direct them to the Earth at the first opportunity.

Typically, the trajectory is calculated so that the debris falls into the ocean, preferably in the Pacific, somewhere between Australia, New Zealand and South America, as far from land as possible.

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