A massive Chinese missile is preparing to crash into Earth in an uncontrolled return after being launched from a space station.
The 21-ton Long March 5B rocket transported a unit from China’s new space station to low Earth orbit last week.
But the 30-meter-long missile has also reached orbit and will now be one of the largest in history to achieve an uncontrolled re-entry, according to SpaceNews.com.
Experts say that most expendable missiles do not reach the speed that would put them into orbit, return to the atmosphere and land in a known area.
Most likely, any debris that does not burn upon return will land in the ocean or in an uninhabited area, but “the risk of damage to people or property remains,” according to Space News.
This past May, the first launch of the Long March 5B also saw the first stage reach orbit and an uncontrolled return six days later.
The US military said it was back in the Atlantic, but if it had happened 15 to 30 minutes earlier, unburned debris would have reached American soil.
Space flight observer Jonathan McDowell said the size of the missile meant it would be an unprecedented re-entry.
“The theater center at Long March 5B is seven times larger than the second stage of the Falcon 9 which sparked a lot of press attention a few weeks ago when it re-entered above. Seattle And dumping two pressure tanks in the state Washington“He said.
“I think that by current standards, it is unacceptable to allow her to enter again uncontrollably.
“Since 1990, no more than 10 tons have been deliberately left in orbit for unrestricted re-entry.”
Items that can survive re-entry include components made from heat-resistant materials, such as stainless steel or titanium tanks.
China aims to complete the Tiangong space station by 2022 after launching the remaining modules.