Chinese media silent over fate of recent space launch

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – The state-run institutions in China maintain a mysterious silence over the fate of a rocket launch into space carrying the core module — Tianhe — of its upcoming T-shaped space station.

However, according to Space News, the Chinese-built Long March-5B Y2 rocket, which carried the module, is "slowly and unpredictably" heading back to Earth.

"A possible amateur ground observation of the rocket core showing regular flashes suggests that it is tumbling and thus not under control," the website which follows space missions reported.

At least a week after its launch, the Chinese state-run media is yet to comment on the issue.

China eyes completion of its T-shaped space station by next year and launched into space the core module — Tianhe — meaning Heavenly Palace on Long March-5B Y2 Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan on April 29.

The Long March 5 rockets are also known as "heavy-lift vehicles."

Tianhe had separated from the core stage of the launcher after 492 seconds of flight, directly entering its initial planned orbit, said the Space News.

"Designed specifically to launch space station modules into low Earth orbit, the Long March 5B uniquely uses a core stage and four side boosters to place its payload directly into low Earth orbit.

"However, this core stage is now also in orbit and is likely to make an uncontrolled reentry over the next days or week as growing interaction with the atmosphere drags it to Earth. If so, it will be one of the largest instances of uncontrolled reentry of a spacecraft and could potentially land on an inhabited area," the news website reported.

On the successful launch of the module last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping said China's space station construction had entered the full implementation stage, laying a solid foundation for the follow-up tasks.

According to details released by the space academy, Tianhe has a total length of 16.6 meters (54.5 feet), a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters (13.8 feet), and a takeoff mass of 22.5 tons.

The Chinese space station has a designed lifespan of 10 years. But appropriate maintenance and repairs could extend its life to more than 15 years.