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Out-of-control Russian rocket stage reenters Earth’s atmosphere

An out-of-control Russian rocket stage has re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the latest estimate from US Space Command, which has been tracking its descent.

The Angara-A5 heavy-lift rocket was launched from the Plesetsk spaceport in Russia’s northwestern Arkhangelsk region on Monday, December 27.

The launch was testing a new upper rocket stage, known as the Persei booster, according to the state-run TAS news agency.




Most space debris burns up on reentry to Earth’s atmosphere and poses an extremely minimal risk to humans, but it’s possible that larger parts could cause damage if they landed in inhabited regions.

But on Wednesday, US Space Command which had tracked the rocket booster during reentry said the rocket reentered the Earth’s atmosphere at 2:08 pm MST over the Southern Pacific Ocean.

It may, however, be impossible to determine exactly where the debris landed.



Earlier on Wednesday, the head of the European Space Agency’s Space Debris Office, Holger Krag, said the Russian rocket part had been traveling at 7.5 kilometers per second, and its reentry latitude was likely to be between 63 degrees north and south of the equator.

The Russian rocket stage was not intended to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere in this way. “It was meant to end up in an orbit where it would stay for many thousands of years,” Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard & Smithsonian said.

On average, 100 to 200 tons of space junk reenter the Earth’s atmosphere in an uncontrolled way every year.