Space Command follows Chinese rocket launchers heading savagely for Earth – Pacific
Space Command follows Chinese rocket launchers heading savagely towards Earth
U.S. Space Command is actively tracking part of a large Chinese rocket in freefall from space and is expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere on Saturday.
Where the debris landed will remain unknown until shortly before its crash, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
The uncontrollable space junk was part of the main launch scene used by China to propel the Long March 5B rocket into space on April 29.
“The US Space Command knows and tracks the location of the Chinese Long March 5B in space, but its exact point of entry into Earth’s atmosphere can only be identified a few hours after its re-entry, scheduled for around May 8,” Mike Howard, a Pentagon spokesperson, said in a statement Tuesday.
The 18th Space Control Squadron posts daily updates on the location of the rocket body on space-track.org, the public website that provides information on all the satellites and debris orbiting the planet. The site provides data on objects as small as a softball.
The 18th Space Control Squadron at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Tracks more than 27,000 man-made objects in space, most of which are in low earth orbit, Howard said in the statement. The objects “can pose potential threats to the safety of spaceflight and the space domain,” he said.
The launch was just one in a series that China is leading in an effort to build its own space station. The launch body is about 100 feet long and 16 feet wide, according to a report on spacenews.com on Sunday.
Most first-stage launchers fall back to the ground shortly after take-off at predefined crash sites, according to the report. The falling debris thus represents “one of the greatest examples of an uncontrolled re-entry of a spacecraft” to the surface of the Earth.
China was criticized a year ago for a similar launch of a Long March 5B when debris from its main stage landed in Ivory Coast in Africa.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine publicly criticized China’s handling of the launch at the time, according to spacenews.com.
“It flew over population centers and re-entered Earth’s atmosphere,” he said at a committee meeting, the site reported. “It could have been extremely dangerous. We’re really lucky in the sense that it doesn’t seem to have hurt anyone.