Chinese rocket debris revolving in space to fall into earth’s orbit
Concerns arise as debris from the ‘out-of-control rocket that launched China’s ‘Tianhe’ module is likely to fall in international waters this weekend as the US Defense Department says “all debris can be potential threats to spaceflight safety & the space domain.” A skywatcher in Italy has spotted a huge Chinese rocket core falling uncontrolled from orbit, as the White House weighed in on the tricky international situation. Odds are the 23-ton (21 metric tons) piece of space debris will break apart high in the atmosphere and largely burn up, experts say, with any remaining pieces hitting uninhabited areas, as 70% of Earth’s surface is covered in ocean.
The non-profit, federally funded Aerospace Corp has said it expects the debris to hit the Pacific near the Equator after passing over eastern US cities. The orbit covers a swath of the planet from New Zealand to Newfoundland. The US defense department expects it to fall to Earth on Saturday though where it will hit “cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its re-entry”, the Pentagon said.
“At the imaging time, the rocket stage was at about 700 km [435 miles] from our telescope, while the sun was just a few degrees below the horizon, so the sky was incredibly bright,” Masi wrote in a description of the image. “These conditions made the imaging quite extreme, but our robotic telescope succeeded in capturing this huge debris.”
China’s space agency has yet to say whether the rocket is being controlled or will make an out-of-control descent. But the Global Times newspaper, published by the Chinese Communist Party, has claimed the rocket’s “thin-skinned” aluminum-alloy exterior will easily burn up in the atmosphere, posing an extremely remote risk to people.