Despite some analyses indicating a previous re-entry harmed buildings in the Ivory Coast, Chinese official media has rejected the worries as “sour grapes” and claimed to have a “perfect safety record.”
The Long March 5B rocket is too massive to burn up on entry and will likely shatter, showering the ground with soaring metal fragments.
According to the Centre for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS), more than 88% of the world’s population resides within the possible debris footprint of reentry.
Depending on the object, experts at CORDS from the Aerospace Corporation have cautioned that 20-40 percent of the mass of a huge object will reach the ground as a “basic rule of thumb.”
In the case of the Long March booster, which weighs 23 metric tonnes, this equates to between 4.6 and 9.2 metric tonnes striking the Earth, which is similar to twelve Volkswagen Beetles from 1963.
In a Q&A posted on the site of Aerospace Corporation, the business stated that the booster is one of the largest vehicles to reenter the Earth after reaching orbit.
Rocket boosters are often not designed to reach orbit, but rather to launch their payloads into orbit while landing safely.
When spacecraft are de-orbited, it is typically done in a controlled manner, with the engines firing to lower the spacecraft into Earth’s orbit and determine where it will fall – frequently the so-called “spacecraft cemetery” near Point Nemo in the Pacific Ocean.
This is characterized as a controlled re-entry, in which the operators can determine the final landing spot and debris footprint.
However, if the booster has been sent into orbit and will return to Earth on its own, its precise landing location will not be known until mere hours before impact.
It is not the first time a Chinese rocket has posed a threat to inhabited areas when returning to Earth; similar uncontrolled re-entry incidents occurred in 2021 and 2020.
In an article reacting to recent worries, China’s official publication, the Global Times, asserted that the Western media’s response reflected “sour grapes.”
Despite Mr. McDowell’s analysis, the article also claimed that China has an “impeccable safety record” regarding uncontrolled re-entry.
The statement said that the accusations were aimed to undercut China’s achievements in the aerospace industry since the United States “is running out of measures” to halt this progress through other means.