Re-entry of Long March 5B Rocket 

  • IASbaba
  • May 10, 2021
  • 0
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Re-entry of Long March 5B Rocket 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Space; Sci & tech 

In news

  • Debris from a Chinese Long March 5B Rocket made uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrated over the Indian Ocean. 

Key takeaways 

  • Long March 5B rocket had been launched into space on April 29 for putting into orbit a core module of the new Tianhe space station, which is expected to become operational in 2022.
  • For days, there had been speculation on whether the debris would hit a populated area on the Earth’s surface. 

Why did the rocket cause worry?

  • When a rocket is launched, its discarded booster stages re-enter the atmosphere soon after liftoff and harmlessly fall into the ocean
  • In this case, however, a 10-floor large vehicle of the rocket weighing 18 metric tonnes went into orbit along with the section of the under-construction space station that it was carrying.
  • While in orbit, this vehicle kept rubbing against the air at the top of the atmosphere, and the resulting friction caused it to start losing altitude. 
  • The piece hurtled through a low-Earth orbit at roughly 25,490 km/hr.
  • An “uncontrolled re-entry” thus became inevitable, but China did not admit this fact to the world until 8th May. 
  • The chance of humans getting hurt were low because most of the debris burnt up in the atmosphere and large parts of the Earth are covered by oceans and massive land areas lie uninhabited.

Do you know? 

  • When rockets carry their payload into space, their booster stages that reach orbit fire the engine again after completing their job so as to drop back to Earth and not remain in orbit.
  • Space agencies plan this process to ensure that such rocket parts end up in uninhabited areas, such as the middle of the ocean.
  • China chose not to do this for its Long March rocket, leading to its vehicle crashing back uncontrollably. 

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