Long March 5B: How and Where to Track Rocket's Position and Impact Time Online

  • Updated

Even as the debris of Chinese rocket Long March 5B is hurtling down to Earth at speeds of more than 18,000 miles per hour, the re-entry window has narrowed down to the next few hours.

It is certain that the rocket remnants will hit Earth in the span of next few hours but there are varying estimates of the exact time according to different experts.

While the US Space Command says the re-entry would occur at 0211 GMT on Sunday, with a possible deviation of one hour either side, the Center for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies (CORDS) at Aerospace Corporation estimates it will happen around 0302 GMT.

Long March-5B rocket
China's unmanned spacecraft Long March-5B rocket Twitter @SpaceflightNow

There is still no clear estimate of where exactly the rocket would fall, but there is consensus among trackers that it is unlikely to fall in the United States.

How to Track the Lon March Rocket Re-Entry Live?

A very handy tool to track the descent of the rocket remains is the twitter feed of Jonathan McDowell, an expert with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Your can track the Rocket debris' current position by following McDowell's twitter feed, where he gives real time account of the exact position of the space junk that hurtles down to Earth through the atmosphere.

Another source for the exact location of the rocket debris is EU Space Surveillance and Tracking (EU SST), which said the Long March 5B rocket body would re-enter Earth 139 minutes either side of 0232 GMT on Sunday.

EU SST also said statistical probability of the debris falling in a populated area is "low". Yet, the prognosis remains uncertain, given the nature of the freefall.

Meanwhile, Space-Track, which reports data collected by US Space Command, says the debris would make reentry over the Mediterranean Basin.

According to Space-Track, the object is traveling at a speed of around 4.8 miles per second. This means that even the difference of one minute in reentry would result in the difference of hundreds of miles when it comes to the location of the eventual impact. "This is difficult to predict and not an exact measurement," Space-Track said.

Yet another source to check the status and location of the rocket debris is the twitter feed of the Center for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies (CORDS) at Aerospace Corporation.

According to Space.com, amateur skywatchers have also put up useful online tools for watching/tracking the rocket freefall. The Virtual Telescope's Gianluca Masi will broadcast live footage from Rome and you can watch it through the virtual telescope here and on YouTube, the website says.

What is Long March 5B?

China launched Long March 5B rocket into Earth's orbit on Apr 29. The rocket launched the Asian giant's first module of its space station, Tianhe. The main segment of the rocket, which is expected to fall back into Earth, weighs around 18 tonne.

Why is the Uncontrolled Freefall Happening?

The uncontrolled fall of parts of Long March 5b rocket is an unintended consequence of the missile launch. Multi-stage rockets usually fall back before getting into Earth's orbit, and pose no risk of any debris getting into Earth's atmosphere. However, segments of Long March got into Earth's orbit, making it inevitable that they end up entering the atmosphere.