“This risk is entirely avoidable because there are now technologies and mission designs that can provide controlled re-entries (usually in areas far from the oceans) instead of uncontrolled and therefore completely random ones,” he said. E-mail.
Holger Krag, head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, said international best practice is to conduct a controlled re-entry, targeting a distant part of the ocean, whenever the risk of loss is too high.
He added that the rocket’s reentry zone was geographically limited between the latitudes of 41 degrees south and 41 degrees north of the equator.
US Space Command said it would monitor the return of the Chinese rocket to Earth, according to a spokesperson.
Based on varying atmospheric conditions, the rocket stage’s exact point of entry into Earth’s atmosphere “cannot be identified until a few hours after re-entry”, the spokesperson said, but it is estimated that he will re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere around August 1st.
The 18th Space Defense Squadron, part of the US Army tracking re-entry, will also provide daily updates on its location.
CNN has contacted the Chinese Space Agency for comment.
Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said space junk weighing more than 2.2 tons is usually brought to a specific location in its first Earth orbit.
“The thing is, things this big don’t normally get into orbit without an active control system,” he said.
Without “an active control system and a restartable engine to bring it back to Earth…it just falls into orbit and eventually burns up due to friction with the atmosphere”, McDowell told CNN.
China was heavily criticized last year for its handling of space debris after launching another module on a similar rocket. Its remains dove in the Indian Ocean near the Maldives 10 days after launch.
“Space nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth from space object reentries and maximize transparency regarding these operations,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at the time.
Space junk such as old satellites re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere daily, although most of it goes unnoticed as it burns up long before it can touch the ground.
It is only large space junk – such as spacecraft and rocket parts – that poses a very small risk to humans and ground infrastructure.