The core stage of China’s Long March 5B rocket, seen here before launch, re-entered the atmosphere over the Arabian Peninsula and Indian Ocean late Saturday. Credit: Xinhua
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said Saturday that China is failing to meet “responsible standards” on space debris after a massive Long March rocket stage fell back to Earth over the Indian Ocean in an uncontrolled re-entry that is likely to be repeated with additional launches next year.
The approximately 100-fo0t-long (30-meter), 21.6-metric ton (23.8-ton) rocket booster fell out of orbit and plunged into the atmosphere late Saturday (U.S. time), according to U.S. and Chinese authorities. The rocket succumbed to aerodynamic drag and re-entered the atmosphere on a northwest-to-southeast pass over the Arabian Peninsula and Indian Ocean.
Most of the rocket was expected to burn up during re-entry. Debris that survived the scorching temperatures of re-entry likely fell in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office.
The rocket dropped into the atmosphere at nearly 17,000 mph (28,000 kilometers per hour). Friction generated from the rocket encountering air molecules caused temperatures to build up to thousands of degrees.
The Aerospace Corp., a California-based research center, expected about five ...