The US Space Command says it’s tracking a large Chinese rocket body that’s out of control and expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere this weekend.
The Pentagon has announced that it is tracking a fragment of a Chinese rocket that is expected to return to the atmosphere in an uncontrolled re-entry in the next few days.
At the moment, however, it doesn’t know where the debris will end up.
The US Space Command, a division of the US military, said in a statement on Tuesday that the exact time of the rocket’s entry into the atmosphere can only be known within “hours” of its reentry.
According to the Space Command, the core of the rocket launched by China on April 29 has been predicted to come back to Earth “around May 8.” The exact trajectory is unclear.
The rocket is in orbit and will fall uncontrollably to the Earth, Insiders Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported Saturday.
Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, told CNN that the rocket travels at a speed of 18,000 mph, which means that tiny changes in orbit will greatly change its trajectory.
Based on the rockets current orbit, the debris could fall as far north as New York, Madrid, or Beijing and as far south as southern Chile or Wellington, New Zealand, Reuters reported .
Much of the rocket is possibly to burn up on reentry, however experts are worried some debris might reach Earth.
Though it is able to hit a populated area, it is far more likely that it won’t. Most of the Earth’s surface is ocean, and much of its land is uninhabited.
McDowell told CNN the risk of the debris causing damage was “pretty small”.
But it is not null. Last time a Chinese Long March 5B rocket, similar to the one that was launched this time, reentered the atmosphere, debris reportedly landed on buildings in two villages in Ivory Coast.
McDowell told Space News that letting debris reenter the atmosphere uncontrolled was “unacceptable”.
“Since 1990 nothing over 10 tons has been deliberately left in orbit to reenter uncontrolled,” he said. The core of the rocket is thought to weigh about 21 tons.
Answering a reporter’s question about the Chinese rocket on Wednesday, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said the US was “committed to addressing the risks of growing congestion due to space debris”.
The Long March 5B rocket was carrying the first component of China’s space station , which China aims to complete by 2022.
The launch was one of 11 planned missions to build the station, Insiders Morgan McFall-Johnsen reported on April 29.