The largest block of space junk that has fallen on Earth's surface in nearly three decades belongs to the Chinese spacecraft launched in early May.
The remains of the Truong Chinh 5B rocket , launched by China into space on May 5, have just returned to Earth on May 13. Experts predict most of the debris will fall into the Atlantic, off the coast of West Africa. However, a 12 m long piece may have landed in a village in Ivory Coast, according to The Verge, citing local newspaper Afriksoir.
The 12m debris that fell to Mahounou village in Ivory Coast is believed to be of Truong Chinh 5B rocket. (Photo: Afrik Soir).
"This is the object of the largest mass reintegrating (atmosphere) uncontrollably since the (space station) Salyut-7 weighed 39 tons in 1991," said Jonathan McDowell, a famous astrophysicist in China. Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysics center, said on Twitter.
The US Air Force confirmed this rocket landed in the Atlantic on May 12 according to Vietnam time. However, many images taken in the village of Mahounou, Ivory Coast show a 12-meter-long metal pipe that fell from the sky at the same time. The villagers heard a loud bang, lightning and noise at the same time scientists calculated the rocket debris would fly over.
Initial information shows no casualties from the above debris. Although it can not be determined that this is a fragment of the Truong Chinh 5B rocket, Mr. McDowell said that this is the right thing to do.
"When you know that a very large piece of metal will pass through the atmosphere at a certain time and location, then hear the information about the debris falling from the sky in the right place at the right time, not difficult. to connect the two , " said Mr. McDowell.
According to Spaceflight Now, the debris from the rocket launch is about 30 meters long and 5 meters wide, weighing approximately 20 tons. This is the fourth largest volume of space junk to fall back to Earth in history, following the Skylab space station in 1979, the Skylab missile floor in 1975 and Salyut-7, the Soviet space station, in 1991.
Space vehicles often re-enter the atmosphere, but they are rarely of large size and are often equipped with navigation devices to safely return to Earth, typically to the South Pacific. Yang. Chinese missiles this time do not seem to be so.
Debris was discovered near the town of Bocanda, a point on the expected trajectory. (Photo: Jonathan McDowell).
Orbits re-enter the atmosphere of rockets, which are difficult to predict, because they travel at speeds of thousands of kilometers per hour. However, most parts of the object will ignite in the air, only some parts may fall to the surface of the Earth.
"For such a large object, thick solid parts like rocket engine components could fall to Earth , " expert McDowell told CNN. "Once they reach the lower atmosphere, they move relatively slowly, so the worst case scenario is that they can destroy a home."
However, the expert noted that the damage this time will be negligible, only equivalent to a piece of object dropped from the plane to the ground.
The Truong Chinh 5B rocket was launched into orbit on May 5 from Van Xuong launch site on Hainan Island, carrying the prototype of China's next-generation experimental spacecraft.
China plans to launch at least three Truong Chinh 5B missiles between 2021 and 2022, to transport parts to its space station. As a result, other uncontrolled atmospheric re-entry could occur in the next few years.