China's loosely regulated rocket debris could be dangerous - and harmful to US industry

The craft launched just over a week ago carrying components for China’s upcoming Tianhe space station. Its first stage rocket, for undisclosed reasons, traveled too far up, resulting in an unpredictable, unrestrained reentry path expected to splash – or crash – down sometime this weekend.

In the meantime, the 23-ton rocket core, which is about 100 feet long and 15 feet wide, is whizzing around the planet at about 18,000 mph, inching its way toward the surface as it builds friction against the atmosphere. It’s expected to break apart, leaving much of it to burn up in the upper atmosphere, but the object is large enough for chunks to survive reentry and reach the ground – which happened when parts of another Long March rocket slammed into West Africa last year.

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, China's new large carrier rocket Long March-5B blasts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China's Hainan Province, May 5, 2020. Pieces of its upper stage later crashed down in West Africa. 

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, China’s new large carrier rocket Long March-5B blasts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China’s Hainan Province, May 5, 2020. Pieces of its upper stage later crashed down in West Africa. 

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