Space Force Says Out-of-Control Rocket Made Re-Entry

Russian space debris came down over Pacific
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 5, 2022 2:50 PM CST
Updated Jan 6, 2022 5:46 AM CST
Failed Russian Rocket Is Crashing Toward Earth
This photo taken on Dec. 14, 2020, and distributed by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service shows preparations for a test launch of the heavy-class carrier rocket Angara-A5 at the State Test Cosmodrome in northwestern Russia.   (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Update: An out-of-control Russian rocket stage that failed to stay in orbit has made it back to Earth, apparently without causing damage or injuries. The US Space Force's 18th Space Control Squadron, which tracks space debris, tweeted Wednesday that it had confirmed that the Persei booster from the Angara-A rocket had re-entered the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean around 4pm ET. It's not clear whether the 33-foot booster burned up when it entered the atmosphere. If any debris did survive, its exact location may never be known, CNN reports. Our story from Jan. 5 follows:

Nobody has ever been killed by falling space junk, but scientists say there's a non-zero chance it could happen today. Part of a failed Russian rocket is expected to make an uncontrolled re-entry to the atmosphere and officials are hoping it comes down over an ocean, Ars Technica reports. The Angara-A heavy-lift rocket was launched in a Dec. 27 test, but it failed to get its dummy payload into orbit. The upper-stage Persei booster is now headed back to Earth. "It's safe to say that in the next 24 hours it will be down but where, nobody can say, because in the window of several hours it will do several revolutions around the globe," Holger Krag of the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office tells CNN.

In a tweet Wednesday, astronomer Joseph Remis predicted that the rocket part would likely crash into eastern Europe, western Asia, or the Indian Ocean, though its path also takes it over the eastern US and a large area of the Pacific Ocean. Jonathan McDowell at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics tells CNN that the debris has around the same mass as a Chinese rocket that burned up over the Maldives in May, "but most of it is probably liquid and will burn up in the atmosphere, so the risk to the ground is significantly less. I think." (More space junk stories.)

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