China’s rocket fell in the Pacific, but let’s not rejoice too soon

A Long March 5B rocket that fell back to Earth, without any control, ended its fall in the Pacific Ocean. Human catastrophe has been averted, but the situation is not encouraging.

The Chinese rocket fell back to Earth in a completely uncontrolled manner, this Friday, November 4, 2022. The launcher finished its descent at 11:01 a.m. (French time) south of the Pacific Ocean, confirmed the United States Space Command. The probability was low that large debris from the spacecraft would fall on a populated area. However, it was not non-existent. The return of the Chinese rocket, even if it happened without damage, does not change the situation: it is a completely irresponsible choice to make a launcher fall back to Earth without controlling it.

The rocket stage, a Long March 5B (CZ-5B), likely broke into two main pieces. The next card shows a red line, which connects the estimated positions of this debris during re-entry. According to astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, some debris could have gone as far as Puerto Escondido ” (in Mexico).

The places where the two pieces of the rocket must have fallen. // Source : Via Twitter @planet4589

China is betting that its rockets will fall without incident: until when?

China bet again, and this time it won: its rocket stage descended over the equatorial Pacific at 10:01 UTC. The uncontrolled fall of 20 ton objects is always irresponsible », complete Jonathan McDowell. Certainly, no human loss is to be deplored, but the situation has given rise to great concern and has had significant consequences. In Spain, many airports had to close because of this Chinese rocket, as a precaution. Also south of Corsica, French airspace was also closed for one hour, between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

The CZ-5B rocket in question was launched into space on October 31. The goal was to send the third module of China’s Tiangong space station into Earth orbit. However, China did not anticipate what would happen next to its launch vehicle, which had become space debris. The CZ-5B reached orbit, without any deorbit maneuver being planned. As a result, the space vehicle found itself on its own, out of control, to bring it back down safely to Earth. As a reminder, the initial mass of the launcher was estimated at more than 22 tons. Of all this material, it has been estimated that 5 to 9 tons should reach the ground when the rocket falls back to Earth.

The fact that China decides to launch such an imposing machine into space, without worrying about the consequences, poses a serious security problem. This time there was no incident. In July 2022, during a previous shot of the CS-5B, the disaster had not taken place either, but debris had been found not far from villages. Within a few hundred meters, the outcome of this rocket fallout could have been much more dramatic.

The subject is likely to be quickly forgotten in the next few days and not to come back to the fore until the next takeoff of a Long March 5B. While the risks are no longer to be demonstrated. In top 6 of the biggest uncontrolled spinoffs ever made, the Long March 5B occupy 4 places (from 3rd to 6th). Most of the uncontrolled fallout from such large objects that has taken place over the past 50 years has been accidental. Until the CZ-5B launches. Will it take an accident for China to finally stop taking such reckless risks?

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