The massive core of a Chinese rocket used last week to launch the first stage of its space station is expected to enter Earth’s atmosphere on May 6, according to a report.
SpaceNews, citing the early follow-up predictions, reported Tuesday that a spokesperson for the US Department of Defense said the agency was aware of the rocket and was tracking its location, “but its exact point of entry into Earth’s atmosphere can only be located a few hours after its re-entry, scheduled for May 8. ”
The statement said the department will continue to provide updates.
SpaceNews earlier reported that the core of the Long March 5B would return to Earth next week as one of the “greatest examples of an uncontrolled reentry of a spacecraft and could potentially land in a populated area.”
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The website estimated that the approximately 100-foot object orbits Earth every 90 minutes and passes north of New York City, Beijing, and as far south as New Zealand.
The report says that despite the threat, it is most likely to splash in any of the world’s oceans or in an isolated area.
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Jonathan McDowell, a space flight observer, told the website that since 1990 there has been no case of a spacecraft over 10 tonnes being “deliberately left in orbit to re-enter unchecked.”
The report states that the rocket’s center stage, when empty, has a mass of about 21 metric tons. (You can follow the rocket here.)
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“It’s potentially no good,” McDowell said, according to The Guardian. “The last time they launched a Long March 5B rocket, they found themselves with large, long metal rods flying through the sky and damaging several buildings in Côte d’Ivoire. “