The out of control Chinese rocket is expected to land on Earth between 8 and 9 May

The out of control Chinese rocket is expected to land on Earth between 8 and 9 May

Between the still uncertain speed and orbit, it is not possible to say exactly when and where the debris of the Chinese Long March 5B rocket will fall. Although unlikely, the involvement of inhabited areas cannot be ruled out a priori

(image: @ AerospaceCorp / Twitter) Let's get ready for the return of the Chinese Long March 5B rocket. The latest forecasts give the module's fall into the earth's atmosphere between 8 and 9 May. The time window is still very wide, as is the belt of the planet possibly affected. Too many variables can still change the rocket's orbit, but over the hours the calculations will become more precise. Although it is a remote possibility, Italy south of Rome could also be affected by the return of fragments of Long March 5B.

Latest TIP (as of 2021-05-07 0456Z) for CZ-5B (Long March 5B) (48275 / 2021-035B) shows projected re-entry at 2021-05-08 23:13 (UTC) +/- 540 minutes at latitude 38.1 longitude 62.5

NOTE: This is a huge, 18 hour window, and the time / location of re-entry will continue to vary wildly

- Space-Track (@SpaceTrackOrg) May 7, 2021

Long March 5B in free fall

Long March 5B was launched from China on 29 April with the aim of bringing some components of the future Chinese space station into low Earth orbit. All the fuel was used for the mission: unable to be directed anymore, now the 21-ton launcher is falling back to Earth in an uncontrolled way. For the moment it is still orbiting the Earth, along with hundreds of thousands of other space debris, but the experts who are monitoring it a little around the world believe that the reentry could take place between 3:00 pm on the 8th and the 16:00 on May 9 (Italian time). The area of ​​the planet that could be involved is that between 41.5 degrees N and 41.5 degrees S, a very large and populated belt that also includes Italy, in particular the territories south of Rome.

The uncertainty is due to the many factors that can still modify the rocket 's orbit, including the braking effect of the Earth' s atmosphere or the collision with other debris in orbit. As the hours go by, your calculations will be more accurate.

Don't panic

Don't panic. Even if it is the reentry of one of the largest space debris in history (the fourth), the friction with the Earth's atmosphere will destroy most of it and any surviving pieces have a 3 in 4 chance of falling into the oceans (which cover more than 70% of the earth's surface). Furthermore, many emerged areas are uninhabited, so the probability of some debris causing damage to property and people is very low, although not zero.

Rocket in the crosshairs

Furthermore, the re-entry of Long March 5B may be uncontrolled, but many are keeping an eye on it, from the US Department of Defense to the world's leading space agencies and surveillance networks.

The Italian Space Agency (ASI), together at the National Institute of Astrophysics and the Ministry of Defense, for example, it is part of the European Space Surveillance and Tracking Network (EuSst) and has the task of monitoring returns. Long March 5B is currently tracked by the Birales and Biralet radars, which interact respectively with the Croce del Nord radio telescopes (University of Bologna) in Medicina and the Sardinia Radio Telescope (Inaf of Cagliari) in San Basilio. Even the Air Force Mfdr-Lr radar is not losing sight of it.

🇪🇺 #EUSST is monitoring the re-entry of large space object CZ-5B R / B (2021-035B), the core stage of the rocket that launched the #Tianhe space station. Our sensor network is observing the object in order to narrow down the re-entry window expected in the coming days.

- EUSST (@EU_SST) May 4, 2021

Although the risks are low (for now, US Defense Secretary Loyd Austin has stated that no action is planned against the free-falling space module), episodes like this bring attention back to the problem of space debris in low orbit. terrestrial, which can damage both our monitoring and communication systems and the International Space Station, and on the increasingly evident need for a control agency and a true international regulation.

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