China’s crumbling Long March rocket passes above Taiwan without raining down

Published (HKT): 2021.05.05 14:38

No debris from the disintegration of a large Chinese rocket was found falling from Taiwan’s skies as it reentered the atmosphere of the Earth on Tuesday, the Taiwanese military said.

Mainland China’s Long March 5B rocket appeared to be failing days after its launch late last month. Fragments were detected above Taiwan at about 11:45 p.m. on Tuesday, according to a website that tracked satellite orbit data.

The rocket debris was not expected to crash down to the Earth until between May 8 and 12, although it was hard to predict the location, the island’s National Space Organization said. The United States Space Command also put the descent of the debris at around May 8.

A veteran officer of the Taiwanese military said, without elaboration, that they were closely monitoring the process and taking the necessary measures.

Spaceflight observer Jonathan McDowell told SpaceNews that the Long March 5B would be the most massive uncontrolled flying object to reenter the Earth in decades.

It could plunge down as far north as New York, Madrid or Beijing, or as south as Chile or New Zealand’s Wellington, he was cited as saying, adding that inhabited areas could not be ruled out.

Mainland China on April 29 launched the first module for its ambitious Tiangong space station from Wenchang on the southern island of Hainan. The space station module, known as Tianhe, was traveling in its correct orbit after separating as planned from the core part of the rocket, but is now headed back to the Earth in a doomed mission.

The core part of the rocket measured roughly 30 meters long and five meters wide, SpaceNews reported. The U.S. military had been tracking the spacecraft since its launch and found that it was traveling at seven kilometers per second in orbit, the report said.

An amateur astronomy observer in Japan was also observing the development of the incident. The rocket core was showing regular flashes, indicating that it was tumbling and had gone out of control, the person wrote on Twitter.

Media reports said that the rocket was traveling at extremely high speed, going round the Earth almost every 90 minutes. As the circumstances were changing every minute, the reentry point could vary by thousands of kilometers.

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