The uncontrolled core stage of a Chinese Long March rocket burned up over the Indian Ocean Saturday, drawing criticism from Nasa over China’s handling of the situation.
The 21-ton Long March 5B booster launched on 24 July to deliver a recent module to China’s Tiangong space station. But unlike a reusable rocket booster that could make a powered descent, corresponding to the SpaceX Falcon 9, the Long March rocket was left to tumble uncontrolled until its orbit naturally degraded and it fell back to Earth.
That fall took place around 12.45pm EDT Saturday, over the Indian Ocean near Malaysia, in line with US Space Command.
On Saturday, numerous Twitter accounts began sharing video of what may very well be the rocket breaking up over Malaysia, but it surely has not been confirmed if the video is definitely showing the stays of the rocket.
What is understood is that larger rocket boosters are massive enough that they typically don’t burn up entirely during reentry, with as much as 40% of their mass reaching the bottom, particularly heat resistant components corresponding to tanks and engine parts. These debris can threaten livens and property on the bottom.
Shortly after 2pm EDT Saturday, Nasa administrator Bill Nelson released an announcement, by email and on Twitter, admonishing China for not providing higher information on the projected reentry trajectory of their rocket.
“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this sort of information prematurely to permit reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy-lift vehicles, just like the Long March 5B, which carry a major risk of lack of life and property,” Nelson said within the statement. “Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to make sure the security of individuals here on Earth.”
Saturday’s reentry marks the third time China has let a rocket reentry the Earth’s atmosphere uncontrolled.
In May 2021, one other rocket carrying a part of the Chinese space station was left to circle the Earth once every 90 minutes before breaking up over the Indian Ocean about every week later. In 2020, one other Long March rocket crashed into the Atlantic Ocean just 13 minutes fromhitting Latest York City.