Chinese booster falls across the US into the Atlantic


"Parts of China’s gigantic Long March 5B rocket finally made their uncontrolled descent back to Earth on Monday, CNN reports. Pieces of debris soared over the continental United States before splashing into the Atlantic Monday afternoon, as confirmed by the US Air Force.

“For a large object like this, dense pieces like parts of the rocket engines could survive reentry and crash to Earth,” Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer Jonathan McDowell told CNN. “Once they reach the lower atmosphere they are traveling relatively slowly, so worst case is they could take out a house.”

The rocket had originally sent an experimental spacecraft into Earth’s orbit earlier this month — but the empty core of the rocket started hurtling back through the Earth’s atmosphere as it made its way down, without any technology to alter its course."


"The core stage, measuring around 30 metres long and 5 metres of diameter, has a mass of 20000 kg. The core stage has made an uncontrolled reentry at 15:33 UTC on 11 May 2020 over 20° W 20° N, as it flew over the Atlantic Ocean heading towards NouakchottMauritania. During its last orbit it flew directly over Los Angeles and New York City.[38] becoming the most massive object in decades to fall out of orbit in an uncontrolled manner. It was in an orbit with an inclination of 41.1°. That makes the core stage the most massive object to make an uncontrolled re-entry since the Soviet Union's Salyut 7 space station in 1991, according to Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracks global satellite and launch activity. It is more massive than other notable satellites that have plunged unguided back into Earth's atmosphere in the last decade, such as China's Tiangong-1 space lab, Russia's failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe, and NASA's UARS atmospheric research satellite. It's about one-quarter of the mass of NASA's Skylab space station, which made headlines when it fell to Earth over Australia in 1979. The rocket body consists mostly of hollow propellant tanks, and much of the structure of the rocket is expected to burn up during re-entry. But some pieces, such as denser parts of the two main engines, YF-77, survive the fall to Earth and hit the ground."    wiki on Long March vehicle mission


Whoa!  How big?  That would have made a big hole in one of NY City or LA's neighborhoods.  pl

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5 Responses to Chinese booster falls across the US into the Atlantic

  1. Fred says:

    “without any technology to alter its course” China, planetary leader in technology. “as of Monday morning, “potential reentry areas” still included parts of Australia, US, and Africa…” Not China? At 44,000 kg – that’s 22 tons. If it hit smack into the new WTC it would topple that real easy. I wonder how many dead New Yorkers it takes to make China worried about our reaction? I’m sure it was just an accident, just like the Wuhan Lab.

  2. ambrit says:

    What ever happened to the old sci-fi idea of using empty propellant tanks in Low Earth Orbit as shells for habitats and workshops? Surely we have the technology available today to effect that. The ‘Space Tug’ would be perfect for such recovery and reuse scenarios. Plus, it would avoid later high weight payload launches to do the same function.
    Are there no pragmatists in the Space Force? Any countries’ Space Force.
    I hate avoidable waste.

  3. egl says:

    Skylab reentry in 1979 was similar, with contests to predict the entry point and joke t-shirts and hard hats.

  4. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    But that was in 1979, not 2020.
    Oh, where is God-flee Loberts to wax prolix on the wonders of Communist China, and to counter the dismissive thoughts of us Running Dog Reactionaries?

  5. optimax says:

    While working a midnight shift I noticed it was time for the falling Skylab to pass overhead, looked up and couldn’t believe have fast that thing traveled across the sky. A few seconds at most.

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