Another Chinese rocket incident threatens Elon Musk's Starlink satellites

° СRecently, hina has not been making friends with the serial, uncontrolled re-entries of the used first stages of its Long March 5B spacecraft, which pose a potential threat to the earth’s population. Now, like South China Morning Post reportsA Chinese rocket has created another mess — this time in an orbit 500 km (310 miles) above Earth, at an altitude that could threaten SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation.

At a media briefing Monday in Beijing, a Foreign Ministry spokesman acknowledged that the first stage of China’s Long March 6A rocket disintegrated in orbit after delivering an ocean-monitoring satellite into space. The first stage usually re-enters the atmosphere and burns up on its way down. In preparation for re-entry, the stage ejected its unused fuel, and a possible explosion during this exercise is believed to have caused the breakup. It is also possible that the stage disintegrated on impact with other space debris.

Whatever the reason, an accident means trouble. One scientist at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy reported observing more than 40 fragments “rolling rapidly, giving very distinct lightning patterns.”

Read more: China sends another rocket stage flying uncontrollably toward Earth

The incident prompted some speculation that the split was deliberate, as China officially objects to the Starlink constellation, claiming it could threaten the country’s national security — a concern that has only grown since the constellation is helping Ukraine in its war with Russia. by providing the Ukrainian military with broadband service.

But there’s also a good reason China has no incentive to stage such an incident: China’s Tiangong space station orbits Earth in a slightly lower orbit and could be in the path of the debris as it descends.

“There are three Chinese astronauts up there,” said one Beijing-based space scientist, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter. In the morning Publish. “The chance that [the debris] will hit the space station is small, but I don’t think anyone would want to increase the risk.

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Write to Jeffrey Kluger c [email protected].

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