Russian rocket parts tumbling through space, could re-enter Earth's atmosphere within 24 hours

 Part of a Russian rocket launched in late December is tumbling through space, and could re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, possibly over New Zealand, on Thursday morning.

The Angara A5 rocket lifted off from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia on December 28. It was the third development flight for the heavy lift rocket, which was carrying a 2.4-tonne dummy payload.

The mission was using a new upper stage (the section at the top of the rocket) named Persei.

Spaceflight Now reported the aim was for the Persei upper stage to carry out a series of engine burns to manoeuvre into an orbit near geostationary altitude nearly 36,000km above Earth.

The first burn expected to accelerate the Persei stage into a parking orbit apparently happened as planned, but the additional burns needed to climb into a higher orbit were not carried out.

US military tracking data showed the Persei upper stage, with its satellite mock-up payload presumably still attached, in a low orbit between 177km and 200km in altitude, well short of the target.

Astronomer Joseph Remis predicted ong Wednesday that the upper stage would make an uncontrolled re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere at 6.44am on Thursday, with a range of plus or minus six hours.

Based on that prediction, the SAT-Flare satellite tracking website has produced a map showing a series of bands circling the Earth where the upper stage may make re-entry. One of those many bands does cross the lower South Island.

Nelson-based space scientist Dr Duncan Steel, who has worked for Nasa and the European Space Agency, said it was not possible to predict a re-entry location until almost literally the last minute.

Post a Comment

To Top