SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Indian authorities are examining several pieces of suspicious space debris that fell in rural western India on May 12, and the timing of the incident suggests it could be parts of a Chinese rocket that it re-entered the atmosphere that day.
local media reported that the objects crashed with “loud thuds that shook the ground” in Gujarat. There were no victims or material damage, according to the indian express. All the crashed objects were discovered within a radius of 15 kilometers, and among them was a black metal ball weighing about five kilograms, the newspaper said.
Neither the local authorities nor the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) had positively identified the objects.
However, space observer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says the debris is likely part of the third stage of a Chinese Long March 3B rocket that re-entered the atmosphere on May 12. The rocket launched in September was carrying China’s ZX-9B communications satellite. . “We know that CZ-3B Y86 re-entered that morning,” McDowell said. SpaceNews via email on May 16, referring to the Chinese rocket’s Spacetrack catalog name. “We don’t know for sure where, but its projected trajectory crosses Gujarat at about the right time, so it’s a good candidate, and there were no other large objects re-entering that morning. Therefore, I conclude that the identification of these remains with CZ-3B Y86 is very strong (high confidence, although not 100% conclusive).”
The final orbital parameters of CZ-3C Y86 are somewhat uncertain due to its highly elliptical orbit with a very low perigee (approximately 100 km) that changes rapidly due to drag. But it seems a fair match for the re-entry over Gujarat at 1115 UTC on May 12, from which debris was found on the ground.
—Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) May 12, 2022
If the suspected debris is confirmed to be parts of a Chinese rocket, it would be the second time in less than two months that Chinese launch debris has crashed into Indian territory.
On April 2, India saw several objects, including a large metal ring, fell in another western country town. ISRO scientists conducting an on-site investigation on April 15 tentatively labeled the objects as parts of a Chinese Long March rocket. Based on photos and videos of the objects, McDowell said the crashed objects could be part of the third stage of Long March 3B serial number Y77, which was launched in February 2021. China has been silent about the re-entry incident.
In addition to this, there have been several other instances in recent years where a Chinese rocket made a worrying re-entry.
In May 2021, The remains of the roughly 30-meter-long, 5-meter-wide core stage of China’s Long March 5B rocket fell into the Indian Ocean after days of speculation — and silence from China — about where the debris would land. NASA criticized China for “failing to meet responsible standards regarding its space debris.”
A year beforeDebris from another Long March 5B fell on at least two villages in Côte d’Ivoire, following an uncontrolled re-entry of the rocket’s core stage.
In November 2019a spent Long March 3B stage fell near the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in China, destroying a house.