Out-of-control Chinese rocket to again streak back down to Earth

This weekend, the Beijing government expects fragments of a sizable

recently launched Chinese rocket to fly back through the atmosphere in an uncontrolled re-entry that will be avidly watched but offers minimal harm to anyone on the ground.

The Long March 5B rocket launched on Sunday, carrying a laboratory module to the new Chinese space station being built in orbit.

This was the rocket's third trip since its initial launch in 2020, making it the most powerful in the country.

US analysts predict that the rocket's whole main-core stage, which is 30 metres long and weighs 22 tonnes would fall back toward Earth

after atmospheric friction pulls it downward, as happened during its first two launches.

The rocket body will ultimately disintegrate as it descends into the atmosphere

but it is big enough that many pieces will probably survive a fiery re-entry to rain debris over a region that is about 2000 km long and 70 km wide, according to independent US-based analysts.

It is impossible to predict where the debris field would likely be in advance, but specialists will be able to narrow the area of potential impact closer to re-entry in the coming days.

The Aerospace Corp, a government-funded nonprofit research centre outside Los Angeles, estimates that re-entry will occur at approximately 12:14am (GMT) on Sunday

plus or minus 16 hours, based on the most recent tracking data.

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