A large segment of a Chinese rocket re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated over the Indian Ocean on Sunday, the Chinese space agency said, following feverish speculation about where the The 18-ton object would fall.
Officials in Beijing had said the free-fall segment of the Long March-5B rocket, which launched the first module of China’s new space station into Earth orbit on April 29, was low risk.
“After monitoring and analysis, at 10:24 am (02:24 GMT) on May 9, 2021, the wreckage of the last stage of the Long March 5B Yao-2 launcher returned to the atmosphere,” said the Chinese engineering office. space inhabited in a release. statement, providing the coordinates of a point in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.
He added that most of the segment had disintegrated and was destroyed on re-entry.
The Space-Track surveillance service, which uses US military data, also confirmed the re-entry.
“Everyone who follows the re-entry of # LongMarch5B can relax. The rocket has fallen, ”he tweeted.
The segment’s descent matches some experts’ predictions that debris has spilled into the ocean, given that 70% of the planet is covered in water.
But the uncontrolled reentry of such a large object had raised concerns about possible damage and loss, despite a low statistical probability.
US and European space authorities were among those tracking its orbits and trying to determine when and where it could descend.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had said the US military had no plans to shoot it down, but suggested China had been negligent in dropping it out of orbit.
Last year, debris from another Longue Marche rocket fell on villages in Côte d’Ivoire, causing structural damage but no injuries or deaths.
“Re-entry into the ocean was always statistically the most likely,” Harvard-based astronomer Jonathan McDowell tweeted.
“It looks like China has won its bet (unless we hear of some debris in the Maldives). But she was still reckless. “
McDowell had said earlier that China would have to redesign the Long March-5B to avoid such scenarios.
© 2021 AFP