China’s 21-ton Long March 5b rocket is orbiting the planet in a path that could lead to the massive vehicle crashing back to Earth within the next few days, experts warns.
The core stage launched Thursday to deliver the first modular of the nation’s new space station, but instead of returning to a pre-determined post in the ocean, it is predicted to make an uncontrolled reentry - and possibly in an inhabited area.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer who tracks objects orbiting Earth, told SpaceNews that the Long March 5b’s path takes it ‘a little farther north than New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand,' and it could could land anywhere in this range.
When the rocket stage falls to Earth, most of it could burn up in the atmosphere, but large pieces could survive, which could spell trouble if the path leads Long March 5b to a populated area.
Satellite trackers have also detected the 100-foot-long, 16-foot-wide Long March 5B core stage, now designated the name '2021-035B', travelling at more than four miles per second.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
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China’s 21-ton Long March 5b core stage rocket is orbiting the planet in a path that could lead to the massive vehicle crashing back to Earth within the next few days, experts warns. Pictured is the rocket when it launched last week
China launched Long March 5B at 11:23 am local time on Thursday to deliver the first stage of its upcoming space station.
The modular, named 'Tianhe', or 'Harmony of the Heavens', will become living quarters for three crew members once the massive structure is complete.
China aims to complete its Chinese Space Station, known as Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) by the end of 2022, state media reported, after several further modules are launched.
When complete, Tiangong Space Station will orbit Earth at an altitude of 211 to 280 miles.
The core stage launched Thursday to deliver the first modular of the nation’s new space station, called Tianhe. Systems that track space debris picked up the core stage's location (red)
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3D rendering of the Chinese Space Station, or Tiangong Space Station, as it'll look when fully constructed. Tianhe will form the main living quarters for three crew members. Shenzhou is an existing spacecraft that would dock at the station with crew. Tianzhou is an existing cargo transport spacecraft
It's expected to have a mass between 180,000 and 220,000 pounds – roughly one-fifth the mass of the ISS, which is 925,335 pounds.
China aims to become a major space power by 2030 to keep up with rivals, including the US, Russia and the European Space Agency, and create the most advanced space station orbiting Earth.
- Tianhe: Core module. Launched on April 29, 2021
- Wentian: Experiment module I. Launch planned for 2022
- Mengtian: Experiment module II. Launch planned for 2022
- Xuntian: Space telescope module. Planned launch in 2024 to co-orbit with Chinese Space Station
ISS, currently in orbit, took 10 years and more than 30 missions to assemble from the launch of the first module back in 1998.
The ISS is backed by five participating space agencies – NASA (US), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada) – but China was originally barred from participating by the US.
However, the return of the rocket could put an end to China's celebration if the vehicle lands in an inhabited area.
Space debris trackers observed it moving slowly and unpredictably to Earth over the past few days,