A Chinese missile is expected to enter Earth’s atmosphere in

Zoom / Possible re-entry sites at Long March 5B are located anywhere along the blue and yellow ground path. Areas not below the line are not susceptible to debris.

Aerospace Corporation

Experts say that a Chinese missile that will return to Earth in a few days is the size of two semi-trailers, and up to 40 percent of this mineral will reach the Earth’s surface.

Although the overall risk of harm to people is low — there is only a 0.5 percent chance of injury or death to a human, based on one model — those risks are higher than most space-faring nations would accept, said Ted Mullhaupt, a debris expert at SpaceX. air space.

Moulhaupt and other analysts spoke with reporters during a conference call on Wednesday, about two days before the expected return of the Long March 5B primary. As it acquires more orbital data, the non-profit Aerospace Corporation plans to continue updating His entry predictions. As of Thursday morning, I expected a re-entry at 7:17 PM ET on Friday (23:17 UTC), plus or minus 10 hours.

A 23-ton Long March 5 B missile was launched Mengtian unit to the Chinese space station Tiangong on Monday. This modified version of China’s most powerful rocket uses a massive base stage to propel space station modules all the way into low Earth orbit. Because this core stage lacks the ability to restart its engines for controlled re-entry into an abandoned part of the world’s oceans, the rocket could eventually return anywhere in the tropics and most of the planet’s mid-latitudes.

In the three previous launches of the Long March 5B booster vehicle – in 2020, 2021 and 2022 – bits of debris devastated villages in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, landed undamaged in the Indian Ocean, and landed near villages in Borneo, respectively. Fortunately, no one has yet been hurt by this falling debris.

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According to The Aerospace Corporation, the re-entry of these 21.6 metric-ton core stages includes four of the six largest uncontrolled reentries from space in the past 50 years. They are just behind NASA’s Skylab space station, in 1971, and the Soviet Union’s Salyut 7 station, in 1991.

Depending on the course of the primary stage, it will likely affect the land masses where about 88 percent of the world’s population live, Mullhaupt said. Based on a simple model, it is estimated that the chance of a victim – defined as death or injury – ranges between 1 in 230 and 1 in 1,000. The individual risk to any person is unusually low, about 6 per 10 trillion. You will likely be struck by lightning several times.

The largest uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere over the past half century.

The largest uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere over the past half century.

Aerospace Corporation

However, officials from the space company said the individual risk of falling Chinese rocket debris is not really the goal. Space agencies and companies in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere follow “rules” of behavior for much less risk. For example, the accepted risk of injury is 1 in 10,000 from a man-made object entering from space.

There will likely be about half a dozen Long March 5B launches remaining in this configuration, as the core stage moves into orbit. Muelhaupt admitted that the country is unlikely to change the design of this rocket now that it has proven successful in delivering large pieces of hardware into space. But he hopes future Chinese missile designs will find a better way to get rid of such large devices without dropping tons of metal on the ground.

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“We’re trying to get an acceptable code of conduct,” he said. “Treaties and laws are tough. Acceptable standards can come from the ground up. Next time they make a design like this, hopefully they’ll take the reaction to this into account.”

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