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China Rocket Debris May Crash to Earth, Location Unknown

At least 21 tonnes of debris may fall into low orbit, said Astronomer Jonathon McDowell, which means an uncontrolled plummet back down to Earth in an unpredictable location

China is tracking the debris of its large rocket as it re-enters atmosphere in what Beijing says will pose little risk for people.
A Long March-5B Y3 rocket, carrying the Wentian lab module for China's space station under construction, takes off from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan province on July 24, 2022. Photo: China Daily via Reuters.


Debris from China’s latest space launch may slam back down to Earth in a random location in the the next few days, warned an American astronomy expert.

The Long March 5B rocket launch will leave at least 21 tonnes of debris in low orbit, said Jonathon McDowell, an astronomer at the Centre for Astrophysics, which could then plummet back down to Earth in an unpredictable location.



China’s 5B rocket launched on Sunday from the Southern island province of Hainan, as reported by International Business News, lifting a solar powered Wentian lab into the stars to join China’s Tiangong space station.

The new lab will expand China’s efforts to conduct life science research in space, said a CGTN report, featuring a robotic arm and carrying three astronauts who will be able to venture out for spacewalks.


A Random Fall

In 2020 and 2021, Chinese Long March 5B rocket debris crashed down to earth, one hitting the Indian Ocean, and the other damaging villages in Côte d’Ivoire.

China was also blamed for fireballs seen above the Spanish region of Andalusia by astrophysicist José María Madiedo, following its launch of the Long March 2F rocket last month.

“[China is] failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson in reaction to the recent collisions, as reported by the Washingston Post.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded by saying the likelihood of debris causing damage is “extremely low”, the WP report said.

However, it is hard to predict where rocket debris reenters the Earth’s atmosphere, said McDowell, illustrating the disparate reentry locations of 102 Starlink satellites.



  • by Alfie Habershon


Read more:

China ‘Space Fireballs’ Light Up Spanish Sky – MailOnline

China Launches New Lab Module for Tiangong Space Station

China Fears US Will Use SpaceX to Bring Calamity to World



Alfie Habershon

Alfie is a Reporter at Asia Financial. He previously lived in Mumbai reporting on India's economy and healthcare for data journalism initiative IndiaSpend, as well as having worked for London based Tortoise Media.


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