Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h / t Vuk; A Serious Space Etiquette Violation; According to Business Insider, China failed to add a controlled re-entry package to its recent launch mission. An uncontrolled descent means that large chunks of the truck-sized missile can hit random locations at several miles per second in a latitude between Canada and Chile.
A huge rocket from the launch of the Chinese space station could fall back to Earth completely uncontrolled
MORGAN MCFALL-JOHNSENMAY 1, 2021, 6:04 p.m.
A huge missile body shoots out of control around the planet and could fall back to Earth in the next few days.
The approximately 21-ton object is the core stage of the Chinese Long March 5b rocket. On Wednesday, China launched the first module of a new space station that the country is building. Instead of falling to a predetermined location in the ocean, as is the custom with discarded missiles, the core stage of Long March 5b began to orbit the planet uncontrollably.
The missile body is likely to fall back to Earth sometime in the next few days, journalist Andrew Jones, who covers China’s space program, reported for SpaceNews.
“I think by current standards it is unacceptable to let re-enter it uncontrollably,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer who tracks objects orbiting the earth, told Jones. “Since 1990 nothing more than 10 tons has been purposely put into orbit to re-enter uncontrollably.”
Read more: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/huge-chinese-rocket-stage-to-fall-to-earth-uncontrolled-2021-5
This is not the first time China has shown such a lack of consideration. Parts of a similar Chinese launch are believed to have hit Africa in 2020.
Reports of a 12 m long object falling into the village of Mahounou, Ivory Coast. It is located directly on the CZ-5B re-entry route, 2100 km from the Space-Track re-entry site. It is possible that part of the stage has cut this far through the atmosphere (Photo: Aminata24) pic.twitter.com/yMuyMFLfsv
– Jonathan McDowell (@ planet4589) May 12, 2020
The risk of someone being injured is very small because places where people live only make up a very small part of the surface of our planet. But as the experience of Africa in 2020 shows, a very low value does not mean zero. At the very least, it seems rude to put people at risk, no matter how small the risk, because China couldn’t bother adding a small controlled re-entry package to eliminate the risk.
The US routinely manages the descent of large pieces of space debris to maximize the likelihood of space debris ending up in an uninhabited location such as remote locations in the Pacific.
In my opinion, this serial lack of consideration takes off some of China’s triumph in successfully launching an important part of its new space station.