Main stage of Chinese rocket likely to plunge to Earth soon

FILE - In this April 29, 2021, file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March 5B rocket carrying a module for a Chinese space station lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province. The central rocket segment that launched the 22.5-ton core of China's newest space station into orbit is due to plunge back to Earth as early as Saturday in an unknown location. (Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this April 29, 2021, file photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March 5B rocket carrying a module for a Chinese space station lifts off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Wenchang in southern China's Hainan Province. The central rocket segment that launched the 22.5-ton core of China's newest space station into orbit is due to plunge back to Earth as early as Saturday in an unknown location. (Ju Zhenhua/Xinhua via AP, File)

BEIJING (AP) — The largest section of the rocket that launched the main module of China's first permanent space station into orbit is expected to plunge back to Earth as early as Saturday at an unknown location.

Usually, discarded rocket stages are immediately guided into a controlled demolition by friction in Earth's atmosphere, but the Chinese rocket section was not.

China's space agency has yet to say whether the “core stage” of the huge Long March 5B rocket is being controlled or will make an out-of-control descent. Last May, another Chinese rocket fell uncontrolled into the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa.

Basic details about the rocket stage and its trajectory are unknown because the Chinese government has yet to comment publicly on the reentry. Phone calls to the China National Space Administration weren't answered on Wednesday, a holiday.

However, the newspaper Global Times, published by the Chinese Communist Party, said the stage's “thin-skinned” aluminum-alloy exterior will easily burn up in the atmosphere, posing an extremely remote risk to people.

The U.S. Defense Department expects the rocket stage to fall to Earth on Saturday.


Video: Watch: China Launches Main Module Of Its New Space Station (Newsweek)

Main stage of Chinese rocket likely to plunge to Earth soon