Uncontrolled Re-entry of Chinese Rocket – UPSC Prelims

Long March 5B Rocket:
  • The Long March 5B rocket is China’s largest rocket. It was launched into space in April 2021 for putting into orbit a core module named Tianhe.
Why did re-entry of Long March 5B Rocket raise concerns?
  • When a rocket is launched, its discarded booster stages re-enter the atmosphere soon after lift-off. Then, they harmlessly fall into the ocean as a standard practice.
  • However, in this case, a large part of the rocket went into orbit along with the section of the under-construction space station that it was carrying.
  • While in orbit, this vehicle kept rubbing against the air at the top of the atmosphere and the resulting friction caused it to start losing altitude.
  • This resulted in the Long March 5B rocket’s uncontrolled re-entry back to the Earth inevitable.
Has out of control crashes happened before?
  • It is the 4th largest uncontrolled re-entry of debris into the atmosphere.
  • In March 2021, a SpaceX rocket stage made an uncontrolled landing on a farm in the US. But this happened due to a malfunction in the engine tasked to bring it down and not by choice.
  • In 1979, when the NASA space station Skylab was brought down, some debris ended up in Australia leading to an apology from the then-US President.
  • In 1978, when a nuclear-powered Soviet satellite crashed in Canada, Russia was forced to bear a part of the expense gone into cleaning the radioactive debris.
Scroll to Top