Chinese rocket stage impacts Moon

What is believed to be an abandoned upper stage from a Chinese launch in 2014 is now believed to have impacted the Moon’s far side, as predicted by the estimates of its orbital mechanics.

None of this story is certain, other than amateur astronomers had identified an abandoned uppers stage that they calculated would hit the Moon on March 4th. While the data strongly suggests it was an upper stage from a Chinese launch, that is not confirmed. And so far we do not have confirmation of the impact either. Expect images identifying the impact site from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) in the next few months.

China denies the rocket stage about to hit the Moon comes from its rocket

A Chinese official yesterday claimed that the abandoned rocket stage that will hit the Moon on or about March 4th does not come from its 2014 Long March 3C rocket that tested technology for the later launched Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission, as suggested by amateur astronomers and an engineer at JPL.

“According to China’s monitoring, the upper stage of the rocket related to the Chang’e-5 mission entered into Earth’s atmosphere and completely burned up,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Feb. 21.

Space tracking data from the Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron suggests that 2014-065B—the international designator for the rocket stage in question—reentered the atmosphere in October 2015, a year after launch, apparently backing China’s claim.

We are thus left with a mystery. If that abandoned upper stage did not come from either a SpaceX or Chinese launch, what launch did it come from? Or is it a rocket stage at all? Could it be a previously unidentified asteroid?

There is also the possibility that it is a piece from that Chinese launch, considering how the orbital data matches so well. The stage could have split or broken apart, with one part falling in the ocean as monitored by the Space Force, and the other section now heading for the Moon. If so, China is likely denying this fact for propaganda reasons.

China launches communications satellite for space effort

Using a Long March 3C rocket China today successfully launched a communications satellite for use by its manned space missions and its space station, similar to the TDRS satellites used by NASA for similar purposes.

This satellite is the fifth such satellite launched, and is likely intended to enhance communications between the ground and China’s new space station.

No word on where the first stage crashed, or whether it landed near habitable areas.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

21 China
20 SpaceX
11 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman

The U.S. still leads China 29 to 21 in the national rankings.

China launches GPS-type satellite

China yesterday launched another one of its Beidou GPS-type satellites using its Long March 3C rocket.

This is their fourth backup BeiDou placed in orbit, and the 45th total that has been launched.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

7 China
5 SpaceX
4 Europe (Arianespace)
3 Russia

The U.S. still leads China 10 to 7 in the national rankings.

China launches military satellite

The new colonial movement: China today used its Long March 3C rocket to launch a military communications satellite.

This was China’s 37th successful launch in 2018, only three launches less than their predicted 40 launches for the year. It almost doubles their previous record of 20 in 2016.

The leaders in the 2018 launch race:

37 China
21 SpaceX
14 Russia
11 Europe (Arianespace)
8. ULA

China leads in the national rankings, 37 to 34, over the U.S.