Unlike most discarded rocket first stages, which typically do not reach orbital velocity, but rather reenter the atmosphere to land in a pre-designated zone, this core stage is now in orbit and subject to interaction with the atmosphere which will pull it to Earth, the report explained. If this occurs it will be one of the largest instances of uncontrolled reentry of a spacecraft, with the possibility that it could land on a populated area.
What are the measurements of the spacecraft? The SpaceNews report explained that “the Long March 5B core stage’s orbital inclination of 41.5 degrees means the rocket body passes a little farther north than New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, and could make its reentry at any point within this area.”
Where and when the new Long March 5B stage will land is impossible to predict. The “decay of its orbit” will be accelerated by the atmospheric drag, and the speed of this process varies depending on the size and density of the object as well as other variables such as atmospheric variations and fluctuations, which in turn are influenced by solar activity and other factors. Due to the high speed of the object, which orbits the Earth roughly every 90 minutes, a fluctuation of just a few minutes in reentry time would result in a reentry point “thousands of kilometers away.”
It’s impossible to predict when or where it will land. The report noted that an object has been detected by ground based radars used by the U.S. military to track spacecraft and other objects in space. The object has been “catalogued” as the Long March 5B rocket body, now designated 2021-035B. The rocket measures roughly 99 feet long, and 16 feet wide, traveling at more than 4 miles per second.
“Since 1990 nothing over 10 tons has been deliberately left in orbit to reenter uncontrolled,” said Spaceflight observer Jonathan McDowell. It was further stated that any debris surviving the intense heat of reentry would most likely fall into the oceans or unpopulated areas, “but the risk remains of damage to people or property.”
Source The Long March 5B core stage, empty of propellent, is said to be an estimated 21 metric tons in mass without its four side boosters. READ MORE:
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