China's largest rocket, the Long March 5B that delivered the Wentian laboratory module to the new space station, is expected to deorbit and fall back to Earth.
The Aerospace Corporation's Center for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies (CORDS) said the Long March 5B is set for an uncontrolled descent into Earth's atmosphere on Sunday (31 Jul 2022 00:24 UTC ± 16 hours).
Our latest prediction for #CZ5B rocket body reentry is:— The Aerospace Corporation (@AerospaceCorp) July 27, 2022
🚀 31 Jul 2022 00:25 UTC ± 16 hours
Reentry will be along one of the ground tracks shown here. It is still too early to determine a meaningful debris footprint. Follow this page for updates: https://t.co/SxrMtcJnj0 pic.twitter.com/Xtmy26a7QF
CORDS said the 10-story tall, 20-ton rocket is "now in an elliptical orbit around Earth where it is being dragged toward an uncontrolled reentry."
"We estimate, based on previous experience, that somewhere between four, five to nine tons, depending on exactly how it's configured, will survive reentry.
"When it comes down, it will certainly exceed the 1-in-10,000 (risk of injury to people on Earth) threshold that is the generally accepted guideline," Ted Muelhaupt of the Aerospace Corporation in a press conference Wednesday.
The map shows the prediction window of where the rocket could land along the blue or yellow paths. CORDS noted "the yellow satellite icon indicating the center of the reentry window."
This isn't the first time a Long March 5B deorbited and crashed back to Earth. In May 2020, parts of a Chinese rocket crashed into an African village.
Reports of a 12-m-long object crashing into the village of Mahounou in Cote d'Ivoire. It's directly on the CZ-5B reentry track, 2100 km downrange from the Space-Track reentry location. Possible that part of the stage could have sliced through the atmo that far (photo: Aminata24) pic.twitter.com/yMuyMFLfsv— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) May 12, 2020
Then again, in May 2021, another one splashed down in the Indian Ocean.
Why should people be looking up at the sky this weekend?
US Space Command warned the track of the Chinese rocket "cannot be pinpointed until within hours of its reentry."