Things have been falling out of the sky of late. Fortunately, no one has been hurt, but two recent space debris events offer a good reminder that what goes up often does come down.
This past weekend, a huge Chinese rocket broke apart in the atmosphere above Southeast Asia, with large chunks of the 24-metric-ton booster landing in Indonesia and Malaysia. Some of this debris fell within about 100 meters of a nearby village, but there have been no reported injuries.
The debris came from a Chinese Long March 5B rocket launched on July 24 to deliver a module to the country’s new Tiangong space station. The large rocket has a core stage and four solid rocket boosters mounted to its side. With the rocket’s design, the core stage also acts as the upper stage, delivering its payload into orbit. Because the YF-77 engines cannot restart, the core stage typically reenters the atmosphere about one week after launching when used for low Earth orbit missions.
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