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Debris from China’s Long March 5B rocket fall on West Africa, minutes after soaring over New York City: Reports

Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist and orbital object tracker, said that the Chinese rocket was the most massive object to make an uncontrolled reentry since the 39-tonne Salyut-7 in 1991.

A major disaster has been averted after a Chinese rocket narrowly missed dropping down on New York City before burning up in the atmosphere. The debris of the Chinese spacecraft finally ended up in parts of West Africa, reports Fox News.

On Monday a Chinese rocket – Long March 5B, after propelling its cargo into the orbit, fell back into Earth’s atmosphere, narrowly missing the city of New York. The Chinese rocket, which fell into the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean, was almost over 20 tons.

The Long March 5B rocket’s core stage re-entered the atmosphere at 8.33 am PDT (Pacific Daylight Time) or 1533 GMT, on Monday, according to the US Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron. At that time, the rocket was flying over the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa.

Reportedly, the Long March 5B rocket was launched on May 5 from the Wenchang launch centre on Hainan Island in southern China. The rocket had carried a prototype of China’s next-generation crew capsule into orbit on an unpiloted test flight. The launch was carried out to test the capabilities to eventually launch astronauts into space in 2022.

Debris of the Chinese rocket found in Cote d’Ivoire

Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astrophysicist and orbital object tracker, said that the Chinese rocket was the most massive object to make an uncontrolled reentry since the 39-tonne Salyut-7 in 1991.

However, astronomer Jonathan McDowell said that it was unlikely that such large of an object would return to Earth but fragments weighing up to several hundred pounds could have survived re-entering the atmosphere. McDowell said he could “conclude” that the objects that fell on Cote d’Ivoire “are very likely parts of the Chinese rocket stage”.

Core of the rocket passed directly over New York

According to Spaceflight, the re-entry occurred less than 15 minutes after the rocket body soared almost directly over New York City. The rocket’s core stage measured around 100 feet (30 meters) long and 16 feet (5 meters) wide, with a mass of approximately 20 metric tons.

The dead satellites and old rocket stages regularly re-enter the atmosphere, but re-entering objects with masses of more than a few tons are rare. Normally, such uncontrolled re-entries are difficult to predict and forecasts will be issued by the US military narrowing the window for the rocket’s re-entry to the Earth.  

Reportedly, the ground-based radars of the US military were tracking the Long March 5B rocket body in space, which allowed them to monitor to regularly measure the core stage’s decaying orbit.

China has planned to launch at least three more Long March 5B rockets in 2021 and 2022 with modules for the country’s planned space station.

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