Where will it land this time?
For the second time in 2022, and the fourth time in three years, a Chinese rocket core will blast through Earth’s atmosphere and crash somewhere on the planet’s surface.
The rocket was launched on Monday local time to deliver the Mengtian module that will finalise the construction of the Tiangong Space Station.
Meanwhile, the ejected core stage of the Long March 5B rocket that sent Mengtian to space will return to Earth in an uncontrolled reentry, most likely in the early hours (UTC) of November 5.
Observers will track the 22.5 tonne, 30-metre core stage in the days leading up to the impact.
The Aerospace Corporation tracks large space debris and says the risk to human lives is substantial, due to the uncontrolled re-entry.
Long March 5B core stages are among the largest objects to re-enter earth without guidance in decades. Most such objects ignite spare fuel to provide a precise ‘dump’ into uninhabited areas.
“Over 88 percent of the world’s population lives under the re-entry’s potential debris footprint,” the Aerospace Corporation said in a statement.
“Factors such as the rocket core’s uncontrolled manner of descent and its size, which is too large to entirely burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere, collectively present risks high enough that require additional precautionary preparation around the world.”
The last return of a Long March 5B core stage was in July. US Space Command confirmed the final splashdown was in the Sulu Sea off the Philippine coast. Fragments of the core were reportedly found in Malaysia.
Earlier this year, researchers from the University of British Columbia found there was a one-in-ten chance a person would be killed by returning space junk within the decade, and that regions in the global socioeconomic south disproportionally bore the risk of such events happening.