The core stage of a wayward Long March 5B rocket has returned from its short stint in low Earth orbit, disintegrating over the northern coast of Borneo.
Dramatic videos of the disintegrating thruster began to appear shortly after 1:00 p.m. ET, or 1:00 a.m. Central Indonesia Time (WITA). Some 45 minutes later, US Space Command confirmed in a Tweeter that the rocket body re-entered over the Indian Ocean at 12:45 p.m. ET (00:45 a.m. WITA), followed by the US Space Force confirming that the booster had go home near the coastal town of Bintulu, Malaysia on the island of Borneo. The trajectory of the re-entrant rocket extends from the Sarawak region of Borneo to Brunei and possibly as far north as the island of Palawan in The Philippines.
It is not yet known where the debris landed or if anyone was injured. According to The Aerospace Corporation, approximately 20-40% of the total mass of objects of this size will fall to Earth as space debris. So far, no debris has been reported on the ground.
“The People’s Republic of China (PRC) did not share specific information about the trajectory when its Long March 5B rocket fell back to Earth,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement. statement posted on Twitter shortly after the recall went off back to school. “All space nations should follow established best practices and do their part to share this type of information in advance to enable reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy vehicles, such as the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss. life and property. This is essential for the responsible use of space and for keeping people safe here on Earth.
China spear the rocket six days ago on a mission to deliver the Wentien lab to the country’s fledgling Tiangong space station. The core stage entered a deteriorated orbit, eventually falling back to Earth today. Boosters do not normally enter orbit and instead fall back in a controlled manner and away from populated areas.
This is the third time that the Chinese Long March 5B rocket has made an uncontrolled re-entry, the previous one having occurred in 2020 and 2021in which the main stages landed along the west coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean respectively.
China plans to launch another Long March 5B in October to deliver another module to its space station, at which time we will likely have to repeat this ordeal yet again. Unfortunately, this may just be a a matter of time before falling rocket debris actually kills soma.