A large failed Russian rocket has just crashed back to Earth out of control

Launch of Soyuz-FG rocket with Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft from Baikonur Cosmodrome

A Russian rocket in flight. A new upper phase fell to Earth on Wednesday after a failed test.

Sergei Savostyanov / TASS

A Russian rocket fell to a watery resting place on Wednesday after an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Persei booster was launched on December 27 by the heavy Angara-A5 rocket for a test mission. However, the booster at the top step failed to enter the Earth’s orbit as planned. Instead, it began to inevitably be pulled back toward the atmosphere by Earth’s gravity for an expected return to the surface in bits and pieces (if at all) Wednesday afternoon, Pacific time.

“I do NOT consider this object a significant risk,” said leading orbit watcher and astronomer said Jonathan McDowell on Twitter. “Reloading an object with a dry mass of about 4 tons can see some debris reach the ground, but not much.”

The rocket is thought to have weighed about 20 tons, but over 75% of that mass would have been in fuel that would almost certainly have burned up in the atmosphere.

The 18th Space Control Squadron of the US Space Force confirmed that the rocket re-entered the Pacific Ocean just after 1 p.m. 13 PT Wednesday.

The odds are the remnants of most of the space junk that comes in again will end up in the ocean or an uninhabited place and will never be found.

Typically, large rockets or spacecraft that are expected to re-enter the atmosphere are steered into a distant part of the ocean. However, uncontrolled re-entries occur from time to time, such as widely followed the return of China’s Tiangong-1 space station in 2018. They have rarely resulted in much damage or casualties, although there have been unconfirmed reports of Chinese rocket launchers falling in rural areas.

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