Another unguided Chinese missile is worrisome, a year after one of the Beijingspacecraft dropped debris over the Indian Ocean.
Experts fear that part of the 21-ton Long March 5B rocket that was launched into space on Sunday may not burn up completely on re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
It will then crash to the surface at an unknown location and at great speed.
While the likelihood of debris hitting a populated area is very low, many experts believe that China taking unnecessary risks.
The country’s latest rocket was launched over the weekend from the Wenchang Space Center in the southern island province of Hainan.
It was carrying a new solar-powered laboratory, the Wentian Experimental Module, which was to be added to China’s growing Tiangong space station.
However, experts are concerned that pieces of the rocket’s main stage could fall to Earth, a repeat of China’s launch last May, with debris scattered across the Indian Ocean.
At the time, NASA administrator Bill Nelson accused China of “failing to meet responsible space debris standards,” including minimizing re-entry risks and operating transparency.
Another unguided Chinese rocket is worrisome, a year after one of Beijing’s spacecraft dropped debris over the Indian Ocean.
Experts fear that debris from the 21-ton Long March 5B rocket that was launched into space on Sunday (pictured) may not burn up completely upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
WHAT IS TIANGON?
The Chinese space station is called “Tiangong‘ which means ‘Heavenly Palace’.
Tiangong consists of several different modules that run one after the other.
In April 2021, the main module called “Tianhe‘, was launched. Two months later, the first brigade arrived in Tianhe.
In July 2022 Wentiana smaller module in which research experiments will be carried out, attached to Tianhe.
In October 2022, the second module of the research laboratory, mengtian, will also be attached to Tianhe. When this happens, the Tiangong space station will be completed.
Two more spacecraft that can dock with the station – Shenzhou as well as Tianzhou – carry crew and cargo respectively and are not considered part of the station itself.
China also plans to launch Xuntiana space telescope that will be in the same orbit as the space station in 2024.
The rocket’s first stage was jettisoned during launch and will continue to move across Earth in the coming days, gradually returning to the surface.
Experts say its flight path is difficult to predict due to fluctuations in the atmosphere caused by changes in solar activity.
Jonathan McDowell, an experienced pathfinder at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said US Space Command data shows the rocket’s first stage floats on its own.
“The inert… core stage remains in orbit and has not been actively deorbited,” he tweeted.
The problem with Chinese missiles is rooted in the risky design of the country’s launch process.
Typically, ejected rocket stages re-enter the atmosphere shortly after launch, usually above water, and do not enter orbit.
However, the Long March 5B rocket does.
China has previously denied allegations of irresponsibility, with China’s foreign ministry saying the chance of harming anything or anyone on the ground is “extremely low.”
Many scientists agree with China that the likelihood of the debris causing serious damage is negligible, although others believe launching designs such as the Long March 5B is an unnecessary risk.
Last May, one of the country’s Long March rockets crashed on re-entry over the Indian Ocean, north of the Maldives, raising fears that it can crash into a populated area on land.
He eventually fell into the ocean, but Nelson still issued a scathing statement stating:Space powers must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth associated with the re-entry of space objects and maximize the transparency of these operations.
“It is clear that China is not meeting responsible standards for its space debris.”
In 2020, the wreckage of the first Long March 5B hit Ivory Coast, damaging several buildings but causing no injuries.
The Tiangong Space Station, currently under construction, is visible in this artwork.
The Wenchang Cosmodrome is a launch site on Hainan Island in China.
Wentian, a research laboratory dedicated to scientific and biological experiments, has already docked with the main body of the space station called Tianhe.
It will be followed by the second module of the Mengtian Research Laboratory, due to be launched in October this year.
When Mengtian joins the rest of Tiangong, construction on the space station will finally be completed, although Beijing also plans to launch Xuntian, a space telescope that will co-orbit with the space station, in 2024.
Tiangong (meaning “heavenly palace”) will compete with the aging International Space Station (ISS), which is operated by the US, Canadian, Russian, Japanese and European space agencies.
It will consist of three modules, although two more spacecraft, Shenzhou and Tianzhou, which carry crew and cargo, respectively, can dock at the station.
When completed, the Tiangong space station will weigh about 66 tons, much less than the ISS, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs about 450 tons.
It is expected that the service life will be at least 10 years.
CHINA EXPANDS PLANS TO BECOME A SPACE SUPERPOWER WITH HELP TO MARS AND THE MOON
Chinese space agency officials are working to become a space superpower alongside the US and Russia.
They have already sent the first lander to explore the far side of the moon, sharing photos from a part of our nearest neighbor that we rarely see on the Chang’e 4 mission.
In November 2020, they sent the Chang’e-5 space probe to the moon to collect and return the first samples of lunar soil in 45 years.
This was done in collaboration with the European Space Agency, which provided tracking information for the Chinese spacecraft.
Chang’e-6 will be the first mission to explore the lunar south pole, expected to launch in 2023 or 2024.
According to the China Space Administration, Chang’e-7 will study the earth’s surface, composition and space environment as part of the overall mission, while Chang’e-8 will focus on surface technical analysis.
China is also reportedly working on building a lunar base using 3D printing technology and sending a future crewed mission to the surface.
Mission number eight is likely to lay the groundwork for this as it seeks to test the technology intended for the project.
CNSA is also building a near-Earth space station where Chinese astronauts will conduct science experiments similar to the crew of the International Space Station.
The agency also launched a mission to Mars in the summer of 2020 and landed a rover on the Red Planet in May 2021.
It is also reported that China is working on a project to create a solar power station in space that will transmit energy back to Earth and become the largest artificial object in orbit.
They also have a number of ambitious space science projects, including satellites to look for signs of gravitational waves and Earth observation spacecraft to monitor climate change.