Uncontrolled Re-entry of China’s Long March 5B Rocket Debris

What is the News?

The debris from a Chinese Long March 5B rocket made an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and fell into the waters of the Indian Ocean west of the Maldives.

About Long March 5B Rocket:
  • The Long March 5B rocket is China’s largest rocket. It was launched into space in April 2021 for putting into orbit a core module named Tianhe.
    • Tianhe is one of the core modules of China’s permanent space station. Tiangong Space Station is its name.
    • This Chinese space station will only be the 2nd after the International Space Station (ISS). Its lifespan will be 10 years but could last 15 years, or until 2037.
Why did re-entry of Long March 5B Rocket raise concerns?
  • After the launch of a rocket, its discarded booster stages re-enter the atmosphere soon after liftoff. Then, they harmlessly fall into the ocean as a standard practice.
  • However, in this case, a large part of the rocket went into orbit along with the section of the under-construction space station that it was carrying.
  • While in orbit, this vehicle kept rubbing against the air at the top of the atmosphere and the resulting friction caused it to start losing altitude.
  • This resulted in the Long March 5B rocket’s uncontrolled re-entry back to the Earth inevitable.
Has out of control crashes happened before?
  • It is the 4th largest uncontrolled reentry of debris into the atmosphere.
  • In March 2021, a SpaceX rocket stage made an uncontrolled landing on a farm in the US. But this happened due to a malfunction in the engine tasked to bring it down and not by choice.
  • In 1979, when the NASA space station Skylab was brought down, some debris ended up in Australia leading to an apology from the then-US President.
  • In 1978, when a nuclear-powered Soviet satellite crashed in Canada, Russia was forced to bear a part of the expense gone into cleaning the radioactive debris.

Source: The Hindu


 

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