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China’s 21-ton Long March 5B core stage to make uncontrolled re-entry

For the second time in two launches, the 21-ton core stage of China’s Long March 5B rocket is about to make uncontrolled re-entry, with a mass large enough that some part of it is certain to hit the ground.

Where and when the new Long March 5B stage will land is impossible to predict. The decay of its orbit will increase as atmospheric drag brings it down into more denser. The speed of this process depends on the size and density of the object and variables include atmospheric variations and fluctuations, which are themselves influenced by solar activity and other factors.

The high speed of the rocket body means it orbits the Earth roughly every 90 minutes and so a change of just a few minutes in reentry time results in reentry point thousands of kilometers away.

The Long March 5B core stage’s orbital inclination of 41.5 degrees means the rocket body passes a little farther north than New York, Madrid and Beijing and as far south as southern Chile and Wellington, New Zealand, and could make its reentry at any point within this area.

The previous core stage hit the Atlantic Ocean six days after launch in May 2020. Had it come down fifteen to thirty minutes earlier it would have come down on U.S. soil, possibly even on top of the New York metropolitan area.

China’s design for this rocket means that every single launch will result in similar potential disasters. They cannot restart the core stage’s engines after cut-off, so that once it has delivered its payload it is nothing more than a very big and uncontrolled brick that has to hit the ground somewhere.

This is a direct violation of the Outer Space Treaty, which China is a signatory. The treaty makes signatories liable for any damage from an uncontrolled re-entry, and requires them to take action to prevent such events from occurring.

China it appears doesn’t care much about the treaties it signs. The first time could be rung up to a mistake. The second time is intentional and tells us that this country will not honor any of its obligations anywhere else, if it decides it can get away with it.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • PR

    China doesn’t give a rat’s —- about their own people being hit by falling rockets, why would they care about anyone else’s?

  • Geno

    Isn’t this the rocket they plan to use mutiple times to launch their space station ?

  • wayne

    There are roughly 90 million members of the chinese communist party, and they all need to go, all the way.


  • John

    Rules for thee but not for mee. I don’t think that’s in the communist manifesto, but it should be. It applies to those people over there and over here.

  • Phill O

    No action to be taken under the Biden and Trudeau dictatorships.

  • pzatchok

    Come on baby hit my land!!!!!

    It might take years but I can get some cash out of them.

  • Why should China care about such inconveniences as ‘treaties’? They are the only superpower. The United States is done being United, and Russia, is, well, Russia. If a US President were to make a show of force, half of the country would accuse them of ‘warmongering’. A house divided, and all.

    America still lives and is strong in the hearts of countrymen; we just need to find a physical location for it.

  • Jeff Wright

    I’d like to see its re-entry…safely…

  • Spectrum Shift

    I wonder how China would react if a space tug sent it back home where it came from. China’s junk, Chinas yard!

  • humphreyrobot

    Now playing, Space Junk by Devo.

  • wayne


    -the relevant tune-

    “And now I’m mad about space junk,
    I’m all burned out about space junk.
    Walk and talk about space junk.
    It smashed my baby’s head, space junk,
    And now my sally’s dead, space junk….”

  • BLSinSC

    It has been EVIDENT for a LONG time that china has no integrity or honor – only SELF ! That is why they were so against PRESIDENT TRUMP’s reelection and most likely were a MAJOR player behind the corrupted election results! I keep thinking that with all the carnage by the IMPOTUS joe and harris junta that the vast majority of AMERICANS will look at the PROVEN VOTE FRAUD and DEMAND that PReSIDENT TRUMP is returned to office and everyone involved in the SCAM is prosecuted ! THEN and only then will we put an end to the stealth and corruption of chinese infiltration.

  • To be fair, I wouldn’t sign a treaty with the US. How’s that Ukrainian territorial integrity in exchange for giving up nukes treaty working out?

  • TSgt Ciz


    Could we be a little more specific. Give maybe a range in the half life of gold fish or something?

    Soon as in, this week, this month, or this millennial?

  • TSgt Ciz: See today’s update for more precise estimate, with May 10th as the centerpoint of the window.

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