The remains of a long March 5B launched on April 29th by the CNSA from the Wenchang site will fall back to Earth in the coming days. At the moment, however, the information about this central stage is scarce, that’s how complicated it is to calculate its trajectory. It is now certain that the rocket will not fall into the French metropolis, since the inclination of its orbit with respect to the equator is incompatible with a fall in France and Northern Europe. In spite of everything, many inhabited areas remain on the very wide trajectory of the missile, which is now completely out of control.
According to Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard University astrophysicist interviewed by the Guardian on the subject, he most likely still believes the rocket will complete its course in the ocean. Salt water covers 71% of the planet.
If the April 29 mission had been a historic success for China, which had just laid the foundation stone for its station, Beijing stood out (again) for poorly restoring the stages of its missile.
This image (above) shows the orbits of the rocket remains and the trajectories they might follow in the days ahead. The orbits that have already taken place are shown in blue and the probable orbits in yellow. If this information can give an idea of the missile’s target, there are many variables to be considered in this type of calculation and the data can evolve very quickly.
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This is not the first time the Chinese space agency has been reprimanded by high-level international bodies for “deorbiting” its missiles and, more generally, for attempting to return them to Earth. When the prototype of the space station returned, it was not completely consumed in the atmosphere and part of it had completed its course in the Pacific, luckily without causing any damage, but by then the Chinese space agency CNSA had completely lost control of its Prototype station when she returned.
Jonathan McDowell also recalls that on an earlier recording of Long March 5B in Côte d’Ivoire, rubble fell that only caused material damage. That first warning, however, did nothing to change the plans and protocols of the CNSA, which apparently still has little to do with restoring its missile stages.
Today it is the central stage of the rocket that is hurtling overhead at 28,000 kilometers per hour and should fall in the coming days. A few meters long and weighing 10 tons, most of the stage should char as it descends into the atmosphere, but contact with the ground is now inevitable. It is arguably the largest uncontrolled fall of a spacecraft in history. It is possible to follow the trajectory of the rocket, which is scheduled to hit Earth on May 10, live within a day or two.
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