TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A massive 23-ton Chinese space junk orbiting the Earth is expected to chaotically return to Earth on Friday, but it’s not known exactly when or where it will come down.
According to a space.com report, the space debris in question came from the core stage of a Long March 5B rocket that entered Earth orbit on Monday to deliver the final module for China’s Tiangong space station.
While the core stage has been in orbit for the last few days, atmospheric drag has been pulling the rocket body back towards Earth bit by bit.
The media outlet said models and observations suggest the missile body will finally return Friday morning, but the possible time spans several hours.
The Aerospace Corporation, which supports national security space programs, said in its latest forecast that the rocket body could make an atmospheric re-entry around 7:20 a.m. EDT on Friday, plus or minus three hours.
With such a large cone of uncertainty, parts of North America, most of Central America, and most of Africa are in the potential line of fire for space debris impact.
“However, it is still too early to determine a meaningful debris footprint,” the company added.
While there is no need to panic, given that much of the missile’s body is likely to incinerate upon re-entry, it is possible that some sturdier parts will survive the fall back to the ground and pose a risk to people and infrastructure along the way.
It’s not the first time a piece of man-made debris has posed a threat to the planet. It’s not even the first time a Chinese missile component has crashed. Core stages from all three LongMarch 5B launches have fallen uncontrollably back to Earth, most recently in July after the rocket carried the Wentian module to Tiangong.
While other private space companies or agencies designed their orbital rockets to return to the ocean or over unpopulated land, or in the case of SpaceX, to land autonomously for later reuse, the Long March 5B core stage reaches orbit and has no way of piloting itself below, so it uses atmospheric drag to get the job done messy.
https://www.wane.com/news/a-chinese-rocket-will-fall-to-earth-friday-and-it-could-be-headed-for-the-u-s/ A Chinese missile will fall to earth on Friday and could be headed for the US