Rocket headed for unknown crash site on Earth

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — A massive Chinese booster rocket is set to crash down on Saturday, analysts say, but is there a chance that it could land in the United States?

A Chinese cargo spacecraft that serviced the country’s permanent orbiting space station has largely burned up on reentering the atmosphere, amid separate concerns over China’s decision to allow a massive booster rocket to fall to Earth uncontrolled.

Only small parts of the Tianzhou-3 ship survived to fall safely Wednesday into a predetermined area of the South Pacific, the China Manned Space Agency said.

Emily Calandrelli, scientist and host of Netflix show “Emily’s Wonder Lab,” has been posting updates on her social media accounts since July 23, the day before the rocket was first launched. Her updates are based on predictions by The Aerospace Corporation.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, a screen image captured at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center on July 17, 2022 shows the Tianzhou-3 cargo craft separating from the orbiting station combination. The Chinese cargo spacecraft has largely burned up on reentering the atmosphere, amid separate concerns over China’s decision to allow a massive booster rocket to fall to Earth uncontrolled. (Guo Zhongzheng/Xinhua via AP)

According to Aerospace, the rocket body was first launched from the Wenchange Space Launch Site in China at 6:22 Coordinated Universal Time (12:22 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time) on July 24.

As the estimated crash time gets closer, scientists have been able to narrow down where the rocket body might land. As of Friday at noon, they had it narrowed down to a crash time window of 12 hours and eight possible routes across the world. Three of those routes passed over the United States.

Possible landing sites in the U.S. as of Friday morning (The Aerospace Corporation via Emily Calandrelli Facebook)

As of Friday at 6:40 EST, the estimated landing time for the rocket was 8:16 a.m. (EST) Saturday, plus or minus five hours. It’s still too early to predict the potential crash site, according to Aerospace.

Possible landing routes as of 3 p.m. on Friday (The Aerospace Corporation)

The Aerospace Corporation is a nonprofit analysis group that works for “a variety of government, civil and commercial customers,” according to the Aerospace website.

China’s space program is run by the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, and has largely proceeded with the space station program without other nations’ assistance. The U.S. excluded China from the International Space Station because of its military ties.

China decided not to guide the booster back through the atmosphere and it’s not clear exactly when or where it will come down to Earth. While it will largely burn up on return, there remains a slight risk of fragments causing damage or casualties.

While China is not alone in such practices, the size of the Long March rocket stage has drawn particular scrutiny.

For the latest updates on the rocket’s reentry and landing, check The Aerospace Corporation website, which is being updated regularly.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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