Out-of-control Russian rocket plummets back to Earth

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Out-of-control Russian rocket plummets back to Earth
ИА Военинформ, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Part of the Russian Angara-A5 rocket has plummeted back to Earth following a failed mission and crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

To the north of Papua New Guinea, in the western Pacific Ocean, a part of the Russian Angara-A5 rocket plummeted into the ocean on January 6, according to experts from the United States Space Control Squadron. The rocket was launched on December 27 from the cosmodrome at Plesetsk, in the region of Arkhangelsk.

The objective was to test a new upper stage of the rocket, known as Persei, but it did not go to plan. When it was in orbit, the Angara-A5 lost control and fell back to Earth.

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A similar event occured with the Chinese rocket Long March 5B, which spent 10 days in orbit before falling back to Earth last summer. It fell uncontrollably at a speed of 28,000 kilometres per hour, causing significant concern to the international community in case it fell in an inhabited location.

At that time, Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, explained that such rockets will generally fall into the ocean safely and there was not much probability of it falling anywhere else. His predictions were right, and the Long March 5B did not cause any problems.

The European Space Agency (ESA) calculates that there are currently more than 26,000 objects in space, of which only 2,800 have any purpose. Most of these waste objects are burnt upon re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere and are of minimal risk to people. However, larger parts may cause damage if they land in inhabited areas.


The launch of the Angara-A5 is the second of this type of next-generation rocket. Other launches are set for next summer.

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