Space junk weighing 25 tonnes could re-enter Earth as soon as Sunday

Source: 1News

Space junk weighing 25 tonnes could fall to Earth as early as Sunday night (NZT), experts say.

The Long March 5B Y3 carrier rocket, carrying Wentian lab module blasts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Wenchang, Hainan Province.

The March 5B rocket, carrying the Wentian laboratory module, was launched from China's Wenchang launch site on July 24 as part of its construction of the Tiangong space station, CNN reports.

The core stage of the rocket is expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere at 3.30am EDT on Sunday, July 31 (7.30pm Sunday NZT), plus or minus a 22-hour window, according to researchers with The Aerospace Corporation's Centre for Orbital Reentry and Debris Studies (CORDS).

While a portion of the space debris - which the Aerospace Corporation called the sixth-largest object to reenter Earth - is expected to break up in Earth's atmosphere before reaching the ground, large pieces have the potential to damage infrastructure.

"The general rule of thumb is that 20–40% of the mass of a large object will reach the ground, but the exact number depends on the design of the object," the aerospace company explained.

"In this case, we would expect about five to nine metric tons."

However, researchers say it is "still too early to determine a meaningful debris footprint".

China's orbital outpost is expected to be completed late this year.