“This risk can be completely avoided because there are now technologies and mission designs that allow for controlled re-entry (usually in remote areas of the ocean) rather than out of control and therefore completely random,” he said in an email.
Holger Kraj, head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, said international best practice is to conduct controlled reentry, targeting a remote part of the ocean, when the risk of casualties is very high.
He added that the return range of the missile was geographically limited between latitudes 41 degrees south and latitudes 41 degrees north of the equator.
A spokesman for the US Space Command said it would monitor the fall of the Chinese missile to Earth.
Depending on changing weather conditions, the exact point of the rocket stage’s entry into Earth’s atmosphere “can only be determined within hours of its re-entry,” the spokesperson said, but it is estimated that it will enter Earth’s atmosphere on August 1. .
The 18th Space Defense Squadron, part of the US Army that tracks returns, will also provide daily updates on its location.
CNN has reached out to China’s manned space agency for comment.
Space debris weighing more than 2.2 tons is typically transported to a specific location in its first orbit around the Earth, said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
“The thing is that large objects usually don’t go into orbit without an active control system,” he said.
“With no active control system in place, there is no engine that can be restarted to bring it back to Earth…it spins in orbit and eventually burns up due to friction with the atmosphere,” McDowell said. He told CNN.
Last year, China came under fire for its handling of space debris after another unit launched a similar rocket. His remains sank 10 days after he was released into the Indian Ocean off the Maldives.
“Space-faring nations need to reduce the risks to people and property on Earth from re-entry of space objects and increase transparency regarding these processes,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said at the time.
Space junk like old satellites enter Earth’s atmosphere on a daily basis, although most of it goes unnoticed because it burns long before it hits Earth.
Only the largest space debris – such as spacecraft and missile parts – poses a very small risk to humans and infrastructure on Earth.
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