Debris from the Longue Marche 5B rocket fell in the Indian Ocean this Sunday morning at 4:24 am French time. Atmospheric re-entry had been recorded a few minutes earlier over the Arabian Peninsula.
The central core of a Long March 5B launcher had been falling back to Earth in an uncontrolled manner since April 29, after having successfully delivered the central module of the Chinese Space Station (CSS) into orbit. It remained to be seen precisely where and when. Without these data, it is in fact impossible to anticipate the trajectory of this rocket stage.
Over the past few days, several tracking sites have kept their eyes riveted on this massive object about thirty meters long and five meters wide in an attempt to apprehend its point of fall. Eventually, space tracking data from the 18th Space Control Squadron of the US Space Force confirmed re-entry had taken place. this Sunday morning around 4:15 a.m. (French time), over the Arabian Peninsula.
As expected, much of the structure then quickly burned up in the atmosphere. Several pieces of debris nevertheless withstood the heat before fall back into the Indian Ocean a few minutes later, around 4:24 a.m. (French time) north of the Maldives (longitude 72.47 degrees East – latitude 2.65 degrees North), officials from the Chinese Human Space Flight Agency (CMSEO) announced.
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China denounces Western cover
The size of the central stage quickly became a matter of concern to both the space industry and the general public. And for good reason, this rocket stage is presented today as one of the greatest examples of uncontrolled reentry recorded in recent decades.
A few days ago, Bill Nelson, the new Administrator of NASA, even accused China of not meeting the standards regarding its space debris. “It is essential that China and all space nations and business entities act responsibly and transparently in space to ensure the safety, stability, security and long-term sustainability of space activities.”, did he declare.
The Chinese media, for their part, remained largely silent on the event until the end of a press conference by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held on May 7, during which its spokesperson, Wang Wenbin , said China was following the event closely.
Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, also denounced Western coverage of this event, highlighting “An old trick used by hostile, nervous powers whenever they see technological breakthroughs in China”.
Recall that China is planning two more launches of Long March 5B in 2022 to add two other experimentation modules to its new station in orbit. In the meantime, China is preparing for its next manned mission, the first since 2016.