A large segment of the Chinese rocket is set to fall back to Earth this weekend.
The Long March-5b rocket was used to launch the first module of China’s first space station in the previous month.
The large piece of space junk measures 98 feet long and 16.5 feet wide and it weighs 21 metric tons. Therefore, the experts are concerned about the amount of potential damage it will cause when it lands.
The US is also overlooking the path of the object.
“We’re hopeful that it will land in a place where it won’t harm anyone,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “Hopefully in the ocean, or someplace like that.”
According to the predictions made by various space debris modelling experts, the piece might fall on late Saturday or early Sunday (GMT). However, such projections are always highly uncertain.
Where could the rocket core land?
Ever since the core was injected into an elliptical orbit, about 160km to 375km above the Earth’s surface on 29 April, its losing height.
The density of air the core encounters at altitude and the amount of drag this produces would determine how quickly its orbit will decay.
The Aerospace Corporation pinpointed an area near the north island of New Zealand, as a possible re-entry point. Still, they are not sure.
Furthermore, the zone of potential fall is restricted. More information will be given by the trajectory of the rocket stage.
It’s moving on an inclination to the equator of about 41.5 degrees. Hence, there is a possibility that the remains might fall further north at approximately 41.5 degrees North latitude. Further south, it could land at about 41.5 degrees South latitude.
At a press conference, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that it was “common practice” for rockets of the upper stage to burn up while re-entering the Earth’s surface.
“China is following closely the upper stage’s re-entry into the atmosphere. To my knowledge, the upper stage of this rocket has been deactivated, which means that most of its parts will burn up upon reentry, making the likelihood of damage to aviation or ground facilities and activities extremely low,” he said, according to a translation on the ministry’s website.