China’s uncontrolled 25-tonne rocket crashes down over Indian Ocean

Nearly 25 tonnes of space junk from a recently-launched Chinese rocket crashed down over the Indian Ocean, landing somewhere near Sarawak which is the Malaysian state on the island of Borneo.

The US Space Command confirmed in a tweet late on Saturday that China’s Long March 5B (CZ-5B) rocket re-entered over the Indian Ocean at 12:45 pm.

“We refer you to the #PRC for further details on the re-entry’s technical aspects such as potential debris dispersal impact location,” it posted.

China’s Manned Space Agency said on the social media platform Weibo that the rocket ree-ntered near the same area around Sarawak and “most of it burned up on its way down”.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said on Twitter that “the People’s Republic of China did not share specific trajectory information as their Long March 5B rocket fell back to Earth”.

“All spacefaring nations should follow established best practices, and do their part to share this type of information in advance to allow reliable predictions of potential debris impact risk, especially for heavy-lift vehicles, like the Long March 5B, which carry a significant risk of loss of life and property,” the NASA chief mentioned.

“Doing so is critical to the responsible use of space and to ensure the safety of people here on Earth,” he added.

The falling space debris, measuring in at 53.6 metres in height, is the result of the Long March 5B launch on July 24 to deliver the Wentian experiment module to China’s Tiangong Space Station.

This is China’s third Long March 5B launch, marking its third out-of-control landing.

Similar uncontrolled reentries of Long March rockets occurred in 2020 and 2021.

A reentry of this size will not burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, and the general rule of thumb is that 20-40 per cent of the mass of a large object will reach the ground, though it depends on the design of the object.

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