One of China’s rockets, which measures about 100 feet long that was launched at the beginning of the month, will re-enter our home planet’s atmosphere at some point on Monday, being the largest object in tens of years to drop out of orbit uncontrollably. The Long March 5B rocket is estimated to reach Earth without any guidance after orbiting the planet for almost a week. This rocket was launched on May 5, together with a prototype for a new crew capsule.
On Saturday, the U.S. military has published tracking data about Long March 5B, which was as follows: it has been orbiting between 94 miles (152 kilometers) and 167 miles (270 kilometers) in altitude. The U.S. military also announced an estimate of the re-entry of the Chinese rocket. This is expected to occur sometime during 24 hours between 23:35 GMT (7:35 p.m. EDT) on Sunday and 23:35 GMT (7:35 p.m.) on Monday.
The very nature of uncontrolled re-entries makes them hard to estimate accurately, and the prediction of re-entering orbit is subject to change as radars located on Earth continue to track the rocket while it is in orbit. Other factors that could affect the re-entry time are variations in atmospheric drag and the activity of the Sun, both of which could move the time earlier or later.
Aerospace Corp has declared that the estimation of re-entry time is essential to locate the debris. Even a one-minute difference between the prediction and the actual time could change the location of falling debris by as much as 300 miles (500 kilometers).
The rocket’s body is currently in orbit flying somewhere between 41.1 degrees north or south latitude, which means that Long March 5B could crash as far north as New York City or as far south as the city of Wellington, located in New Zealand.
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