Re-entry of a Chinese rocket: incredible images from Beijing


Image of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket re-entry on April 2, 2021 by Roman Puzhlyakov (Resource image).

On May 30, China launched its fifth long-duration mission to the Tiangong space station. Three crew members departed from the Jiuquan space center aboard a Long March 2F rocket for a six-month stay. This was days after the Tianzhou 5 supply freighter and before the return to Earth of Shenzhou 15. Both crews shared a few days in the orbital laboratory. On June 7, the second stage of the Chinese rocket re-entered the atmosphere over Beijing.

Video of the re-entry of the second stage of the Long March 2F rocket over the city of Beijing. Taken from Weibo by Yang Xuwei.

An artificial meteor in the sky

Despite the lack of a report of the final orbit of the rocket's second stage to follow up on a possible reentry site. At 1:34 a.m., the Beijing sky was illuminated by the disintegration of a meteor, however, further analysis showed that it actually corresponds to the reentry and almost total destruction The second stage of the second stage of the Chinese rocket of the Shenzhou 16 mission would eventually fall in the Sea of Japan, east of South Korea.

Atmospheric re-entry

Contrary to the idea of the existence of a perfect vacuum in space, the Earth's atmosphere extends to enormous distances. Reaching even the moonalthough with densities of a few particles per cubic meter. In low orbit, more specifically between 200 and 400 kilometers altitude, the amount of gas is low but sufficient to slowly slow down the objects.

During launch, the different stages are separated from the rocket to optimize the available fuel as much as possible. While the first and side boosters fall to Earth shortly thereafter, the second stage reaches a parking orbit. From that moment it is only a matter of time before it re-enters the Earth by friction with the tenuous atmosphere, serving as a natural mechanism to eliminate space debris.

Francisco Andrés Forero Daza