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On Sunday, the Chinese National Space Agency launched the Wentian space station module, which is to be part of the upcoming Tiangong space station However, instead of making a controlled descent back to Earth, China has been slammed for leaving the 22.5 metric ton booster stage of the Long March-5B rocket in an uncontrolled orbit, set to crash back to Earth. After discovering the rocket part yesterday, space experts have now calculated that the huge booster part will fall back to Earth on the 31st of July.
Researchers with The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies (CORDS) have predicted that the rocket body will likely stay in orbit for about a week.
Using tracking data gathered by the US Space Force’s Space Surveillance Network, they estimate that the core stage will reenter Earth’s atmosphere around 07:30 GMT on July 31, give or take 22 hours.
In a blog post, they wrote: “The general rule of thumb is that 20–40 percent of the mass of a large object will reach the ground, but the exact number depends on the design of the object.
“In this case, we would expect about five to nine metric tons.”
It is unclear so far as where the rocket will land on Earth, the researchers say, as shifting weather patterns make such uncontrolled descents hard to predict up until a few days before it finally hits the ground.
According to Dr Jonathan McDowell, an experienced tracker of space debris, at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, the US Space Command orbital data has revealed that the 21-tonne stage is floating on its own in space.
He tweeted that orbital data “confirms that the inert 21-tonne rocket core stage remains in orbit and was not actively deorbited.”
He later added: “On average, US launch providers do a rather better job of upper stage disposal and China on average a worse one.”
China was roundly criticised online for letting the crash to Earth, with one user tweeting: “Very irresponsible behaviour by a nation that can put people into space.
“China needs to properly control where the spent rocket parts are guided.”
Meanwhile, another wrote: “The CZ-5B (Long March-5B) is an irresponsible design as it currently flies
“China is clearly capable of doing better, their other rockets don’t have the issue after all.
“So they should fix their stuff, and, and nobody will complain anymore.”
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Beijing has been frequently accused of being reckless when handling debris in space.
Most recently, China’s space agency has become one of the primary suspects in the mystery of who launched the rocket that slammed into the surface of the Moon earlier this year.
Experts have pointed the finger at a booster rocket from the experimental robotic Chinese lunar mission, Chang’e 5-T1, after accusing SpaceX of being responsible for the launch
China, however, has dismissed such allegations, asserting instead that the booster in question “safely entered the Earth’s atmosphere and was completely incinerated”.
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