India again hit by another space debris

(ORDO NEWS) — Indian authorities are examining several fragments of alleged space debris that fell May 12 in rural western India, with the timing of the incident suggesting that they may be parts of a Chinese rocket that entered the atmosphere that day.

Local media reported that objects fell with a “loud thud that shook the ground” in the state of Gujarat. According to The Indian Express, there were no casualties or property damage. All the fallen objects were found within a radius of 15 kilometers, and among them was a black metal ball weighing about five kilograms, the newspaper reported.

Neither local authorities nor the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) have identified the objects.

However, space scientist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says the debris is likely part of the third stage of China’s Long March 3B rocket, which entered the atmosphere on May 12. The rocket launched in September with a Chinese ZX-9B communications satellite.

“We know that the CZ-3B Y86 entered the atmosphere that morning,” McDowell said on May 16, referring to the catalog name of the Chinese rocket.

“We don’t know exactly where, but its projected track crosses Gujarat at about the right time, so it’s a good candidate, and there were no other large objects that entered the atmosphere that morning. So I conclude that the identification of this wreckage from CZ-3B Y86 is correct, though not 100% final.”

If the alleged debris is confirmed to be part of a Chinese missile, it would be the second time in less than two months that debris from Chinese missiles has landed on Indian soil.

On April 2, India watched as several objects, including a large metal ring, fell into another rural western village. ISRO scientists, who conducted an on-site investigation on April 15, tentatively determined that those objects were parts of China’s Long March rocket.

Based on photographs and footage of the objects, McDowell said the fallen objects could be parts of a Long March 3B third stage, serial number Y77, which was launched in February 2021. China remains silent on the re-entry incident.

In addition, there have been several more cases in recent years of a Chinese rocket making an unsettling re-entry.

In May 2021, the remnants of the main stage of a Chinese Long March 5B rocket about 30 meters long and five meters wide fell into the Indian Ocean after several days of Chinese silence about where the debris would fall. NASA has criticized China for “failing to meet responsible space debris standards.”

A year earlier, debris from another Long March 5B rocket fell on at least two villages in the Ivory Coast after an uncontrolled re-entry of the rocket’s main stage.

In November 2019, a spent stage of a Long March 3B rocket crashed near the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China, destroying a house.

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