(ORDO NEWS) — Mysterious large debris was found in Southeast Asia over the weekend, and evidence is mounting that it originated from a Chinese launch vehicle that fell uncontrollably to Earth.
25-ton Chinese spacecraft Long carrier work In late July, the 5B booster launched a new segment of the country’s space station into orbit.
Then, instead of exiting into the Pacific Ocean (a standard practice called controlled atmospheric reentry), the booster entered Earth’s orbit and slowly lost altitude over the course of a week, ensuring that it would fall randomly in an unpredictable location.
On Saturday, the booster succumbed to gravity and fell to Earth, exploding in the atmosphere. Soon, photographs emerged from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines of scattered objects that appear to be parts of a rocket in the path of the launch vehicle’s uncontrolled fall.
Only China can officially confirm that these pieces belong to its rocket booster, but orbital debris experts say they have no doubt that the mysterious objects are pieces of Long March 5B.
“They look like parts of a rocket to me,” Ted Muhlhaupt, a consultant to the Aerospace Corporation’s Office of Chief Engineer, told Insider, adding, “I have no reason to dispute that these are parts of this rocket.”
There is about a 10 percent chance that debris will hit one or more people per decade, according to a study published in the journal Nature in July.
Even if they don’t hit anyone, spacecraft debris that has fallen into the atmosphere is dangerous to approach because rocket fuel can be left on it. .
The photographs show that during the fall, the launch vehicle disintegrated in parts
In the village of Pengadang, near Balakarangan, on the Indonesian side of the island of Borneo, locals discovered a large, rounded object resembling the main stage of a Chinese rocket. The image above is from footage from the Borneo News Network.
“There is a picture of a large piece at the end of a fuel tank standing on a field, which is very convincing. This is the correct diameter.
It looks like a piece of it survived re-entry – and is right on its re-entry path,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and an active researcher of Earth-orbiting objects.
Mühlhaupt agreed that the object looked like the dome of a fuel tank.
In the small towns of Batu Niah and Sepupok in Sarawak, on the Malaysian side of Borneo, according to the Borneo news network and Malaysian news outlet The Star.
The photographs show “a small piece of metal dug out of the ground.” , which could very well be part of a rocket, but it’s too hard to say,” McDowell said.
Debris also fell when the rocket was launched
Images shared on China’s social media platform Weibo claimed to have shown pieces of a rocket fairing falling off during launch in the Mindoro Strait in the Philippines.
The photos, which Insider has not independently verified, show people pulling panels out of the water, marked with the same Chinese flag and blue space agency symbol as on the rocket’s fairing.
On Wednesday, the Philippine Space Agency released a statement saying that a torn off metal sheet found by a fisherman off the coast of Mamburao was part of a rocket fairing. The agency also said that parts of the falling launch vehicle could have fallen off the coast into the Sulu Sea.
McDowell and Muhlhaupt also stated that they believe these images show parts of the rocket’s fairing that fell off during launch.
Then, as the booster fell from space, its descent trajectory carried it right over the Mindoro Strait.
“This means that we were hit twice by debris from this launch: at the beginning and at the end of the rocket’s flight,” Jay Batongbakal, a professor at the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Affairs and Maritime Law, told Philippine news agency Inquirer.
“This shows that the risk for us is higher because we are under the flight path of most Chinese missiles,” he said.
However, no government agency reported debris from an uncontrolled fall in the Philippines. .
This is the third time that China has fired a Long March 5B rocket and allowed its body to fall uncontrollably to Earth. In May 2021, the wreckage of another Long March 5B landed in the Indian Ocean.
And in May 2020, another launch ended in an uncontrolled fall that dropped debris near two villages in the Ivory Coast, leading to reports of property damage.
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