It’s predicted to land [this] afternoon.
A Chinese rocket booster is spiraling uncontrollably towards the ground, and nobody knows where it’s going to land.
As of about 12:30 pm EST on Friday, July 29th, The Aerospace Corporation predicts the rocket will crash land at 2:05 pm EST on Saturday, July 30th—give or take five hours on either side, but the crash site is as up in the air as the rocket currently is.
Calculations show that it could land along several paths in the lower half of the United States and Africa, across South America, Asia, and even Australia, though China has said the projectile poses little risk, according to Live Science.
The Long March 5B rocket, which weighs 25 tons, was launched as part of the Wentian mission from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in China on July 24th. It was bringing a laboratory cabin module to China’s Tiangong space station, which is still under construction, and successfully docked with the space station.
But the first stage has deorbited and is now headed back to Earth. Space News explains that a rocket is made up of different stages, or parts. The large first stage is intended to cut its engines before reaching orbital velocity, allowing it to fall within a calculated area. The second stage then brings whatever it’s carrying into orbit. In the case of the Long March 5B, the first stage does both.
Previous launches have also resulted in uncontrolled reentries for the stage, and in an interview with Space News astronomer and spaceflight analyst Jonathan McDowell congratulated the successful launch. He also “deplore[d] their failure to redesign the Long March 5B that sets us up for another major uncontrolled reentry.”
The predicted reentry window and possible landing locations will continue to shift as the rocket comes closer, so make sure to keep following The Aerospace Corporations updates.