The nearly 100-foot core of China’s Long March 5B rocket is likely to make an uncontrolled reentry at an unknown time in the coming days.
The spacecraft was launched into low earth orbit on Thursday from Hainan’s Wenchang Center, carrying the Tianhe module for the country’s first permanent space station.
CHINESE ROCKET TO RE-ENTRY WITHOUT CONTROL; ESSENTIAL WHERE DEBRIS WILL ATTRACT: REPORT
However, this is not the first time that one of the Chinese rockets has made an uncontrolled descent.
Last May, debris from the same rocket fell on at least two villages along the Ivory Coast, Africa. In this case, the rocket – which weighs over 1.8 million pounds when fully powered – carried an experimental crew capsule designed for possible future lunar missions.
The rocket returned over the Atlantic Ocean at 11:33 a.m.ET on Monday, May 11, 2020.
The photos showed long metal rods that allegedly damaged several buildings in Côte d’Ivoire, although no casualties were reported.
A local infrasound station also recorded what appeared to be rocket debris moving through the atmosphere at supersonic speeds and touching the ground.
The Verge reported that residents heard sound booms and saw lightning and debris fall around the same time the rocket was said to have passed overhead.
Newsweek reported that part of the rocket fell into water near West Africa after spending a week in low earth orbit.
At the time, the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron said the rocket passed directly over major U.S. cities – including Los Angeles and New York – on its way down.
It was the largest object to make an uncontrolled descent since the Soviet Union’s 43-ton Salyut-7 space station landed in Argentina in 1991.
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The only debris larger than the Salyut-7 space station was NASA’s nearly 100-ton Skylab, which fell on a small Australian town in 1979.
Notably, a nuclear-powered Soviet satellite that re-entered the atmosphere over northern Canada in 1978 resulted in a $ 3,000,000 fine for his cleaning of the tundra.
Typically, rocket makers are responsible for falling rocket debris.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.