Sunday 9 May 2021

Part of Chinese rocket falls into the Indian Ocean to the west of the Maldives.

Part of a Chinese Long March 5B heavy-lift launch vehicle has fallen into the Indian Ocean to the west of the Maldives. The rocket, which was used to launch the Tianhe Module of the new Chinese Space Station on Thursday 29 April 2021, but entered an unstable elliptical orbit after the launch, leading to concerns that it might fall to Earth on a populated area of Europe, the Middle East, or South Asia. In the event it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere over the Arabian Peninsula early on Sunday 9 May 2021, with much of the spacecraft's mass being burned up in the atmosphere, and the remainder falling into the ocean to the west of the Maldives.

Part of the Chinese Space Station being launched on 29 April 2021. Po Xiaoxu/Xinhua/AP/Picture Alliance.

The uncontrolled re-entry of the rocket booster has attracted criticism from space technology experts in Europe and the US, who have raised concern about the rising number of Chinse rocket portions falling to Earth. In May 2020 two parts of a Chinese launch vehicle fell off the coast of Mauritania and on the village of Mahounou in Côte d'Ivoire, in July 2019 part of another booster re-entered the atmosphere over Florida, but is thought to have completely burned up before hitting the ground, and in November 2016 part of a launcher fell onto a jade mine in Myanmar, although nobody was injured in any of these incidents.

The parts of a Long March 5b rocket. Xinhua/China Daily/BBC.

See also...

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Twitter