Chunks of the massive Chinese rocket that recently took an uncontrolled plunge back into the Earth’s atmosphere narrowly missed hitting New York City. A bit of the spacecraft about the size of a small bus splashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa. Some of the space junk also appeared to have landed in a town in Cote d’Ivoire. In November 2019, one of China’s rocket boosters dropped on a Chinese village, spewing toxic fuel and smashing at least one building.
Had the Long March 5B rocket re-entered the atmosphere about 15 to 20 minutes earlier on Monday, it would have rained debris on the America’s largest metro area, according to Ars Technica, a technology-focused publication.
The about 100-foot-long rocket was launched on May 5, carrying an unnamed prototype of a newly designed Chinese crew capsule.
After about a week in orbit, the 20-ton core stage of the rocket fell back into the atmosphere around 11 a.m., moving at thousands of miles per hour and largely burning up on its way down.
A bit of the spacecraft about the size of a small bus splashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of West Africa, according to the US Space Command, which was tracking the re-entry.
Some of the space junk also appeared to have landed in a town in Cote d’Ivoire, according to Quartz. No injuries were reported.
Typically, a two-stage launch will drop its first rocket into the ocean before reaching orbit — instead of allowing the large object to come back down uncontrolled, according to NASA.
It’s not the first time China has seemingly shown a disregard for debris from its rocket launches. In November 2019, one of its rocket boosters dropped on a Chinese village, spewing toxic fuel and smashing at least one building.
Meanwhile, India is about to sign the nearly two-decade-old U.S. Government Orbital Debris Mitigation Standard Practices (ODMSP) or Orbital Debris Mitigation Strategy which attempts to address the threat posed by space junk to a growing, more diverse space economy as well as science and technology development. However, experts believe the space junk agreement maybe against India’s National Security interests.
Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, testified on March 27, 2019, in front of the Senate Armed Services Committe’s strategic forces subcommittee. The issue of space debris was raised at the hearing by the subcommittee’s ranking member Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) who asked Thompson about the risk that Mission Shakti might pose to U.S. and allied satellites.
In response to India’s anti-satellite ASAT missile codename Mission Shakti the US launched what is dubbed as Operation Olympic Defender. At the Space Symposium the head of United States Strategic Command Gen. John Hyten called for Space Rules in response to India’s ASAT test sharing for the first time American Space War plans, known as Operation Olympic Defender, with a small number of allies. It is believed these allies referred to by Hyten are members of the Five Eyes.
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