Much of China’s rocket re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated over the Indian Ocean on Sunday, the Chinese space agency said, following feverish speculation as to where the 18-ton facility would descend.
Beijing officials said there was little risk of a free-falling segment of the Long March-5B rocket that launched the first module of China’s new space station into Earth’s orbit on April 29.
“After monitoring and analysis on May 9, 2021 at 10:24 (0224 GMT), the wreckage of the March 5 Yao-2 Long March 5B launch vehicle re-entered the atmosphere,” said the Chinese Space Engineering Bureau. in a statement providing the coordinates of a point in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives.
He added that most of the segment disintegrated and was destroyed during re-entry.
The Space-Track monitoring service, which uses US military data, has also confirmed re-entry.
“Everyone else watching the re-entry of #LongMarch5B can rest. The rocket is down, “he says tweeted.
“We believe the rocket has sunk in the Indian Ocean, but is awaiting official data from @ 18SPCS,” she added. separate tweet, with reference to a squadron of US space forces.
The segment’s descent was in line with some experts’ predictions that any debris would wash down into the ocean, given that 70 percent of the planet is covered by water.
However, the uncontrolled re-entry of such a large object raised concerns about possible damage and casualties, even though there was little statistical chance.
“The likelihood of damage … in the field is extremely low,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin last week.
The U.S. and European space authorities were among those watching its orbits, trying to figure out when and where he could descend.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the US military did not intend to shoot him down, but indicated that China was careless when it fell out of orbit.
Last year, debris from another Long March rocket fell on a village in Côte d’Ivoire, causing damage to the structure but no injuries or death.
To avoid these scenarios, some experts have recommended redesigning the Long March-5B rocket – which does not have the ability to control its descent from orbit.
“Returning to the ocean has always been statistically most likely,” said Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell tweeted.
“China seems to have won the gamble (unless we get news of the wreckage in the Maldives). But it was still ruthless. “