Saturday, October 23, 2021

Chinese rocket upgrades: debris falls into the Indian Ocean

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The official China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, meanwhile, said on Weibo it had reentered the Earth’s atmosphere at 10:24 p.m. ET and provided coordinates: around 72.47° east longitude and 2.65° north latitude. Those coordinates would put it in the northern Indian Ocean, near the Maldives. The Space Command said it believes the rocket splashed down in the Indian Ocean, but was waiting for official confirmation from 18 Space Control Squadron.

It said most of the rocket debris was “ablated and destroyed” during reentry. Space Force won’t know the precise landing location until after the rocket body has already landed, according to Space Track.

Computer projections show that if the debris were to reenter the atmosphere at exactly 10:04 p.m. ET on Saturday, it likely would be over the northern Atlantic Ocean, though the location varies minute to minute. Original story:

Update, 5:03 p.m. The latest data from the U.S. Space Force has narrowed the reentry window for the rocket body to just two hours: 9 to 11 p.m. ET. Update, 8:24 p.m.: The reentry window has shifted to between 9:11 and 11:11 p.m. ET. Saturday, with the projected landing now in the Mediterranean Basin.

The section is part of a rocket called Chinese Long March 5B, which launched a module of the country’s first permanent space station into orbit last week. Predictions for when and where Chinese rocket debris hurtling toward Earth is expected to land are narrowing.

The U.S. Space Force has projected four possible orbits for reentry in play — three over water, one over land. The rocket body’s reentry is currently projected at anywhere between 7:30 p.m. ET and 1:30 a.m. ET, according to the latest U.S. Space Force data. Officials have been tracking the rocket body’s uncontrolled return to Earth for several days now, estimating when it might reenter the atmosphere.

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