Out-Of-Control Spacecraft Crashes To Earth After Major Failure

by : Emily Brown on : 06 Jan 2022 16:55
Out-Of-Control Spacecraft Crashes To Earth After Major FailureDmitry Rogozin/Twitter/Alamy

An out-of-control piece of a Russian spacecraft has re-entered the atmosphere and plunged down to Earth. 

The Russian Angara A5 rocket blasted off from Earth in a test flight on December 27, 2021, and while the journey initially looked to be going well, a bid to move the spacecraft into a higher orbit proved unsuccessful.


The upper stage of the rocket, known as Persei, began an uncontrolled descent to Earth following the attempt, but the size of the object and the speed at which it was travelling made it difficult to predict when and where it would land upon making it back to land.

According to data from the Space Force, which tracked the debris, the object finally landed late yesterday evening, January 5, after making its entry east of French Polynesia. It crashed into an empty patch of sea, with little debris thought to have survived the descent, The Independent reports.

Satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, shared updates about the re-entry of the upper stage on Twitter and assured he did not believe the object was anything to be worried about.


He commented, ‘Any damage from surviving debris will be minor (it might dent some poor person’s roof, but it won’t wipe out humanity), and later added, ‘To be clear, I do NOT regard this object as a significant risk. Reentries for a object with dry mass of about 4 tonnes may see some debris reach the ground, but not much.’


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In a later update, McDowell said, ‘Persei reentry window is now over – meaning we think it has probably reentered, and we are now just waiting for @18SPCS to tell us when and where it happened.’

At 10:21pm GMT, he wrote, ‘Persei reentry confirmed,’ and listed the coordinates and time.


Persei weighed about 20 tons when it departed from Earth last month, but much of the mass was made up of fuel that was likely lost as the object fell back to Earth, or destroyed during the re-entry. By the time it landed back on Earth, the rocket is thought to have weighed around 3.5 tons.

The December 27 launch marked the third test flight for the rocket, the development of which has been hit with a series of delays. The rocket first blasted off in December 2014 before a second attempt took place in December 2020.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University and went on to contribute to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming Senior Journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news, trending stories and longer form features.

Topics: Technology, Earth, Rocket, Russia, Space


The Independent
  1. The Independent

    Russian rocket: Out-of-control spacecraft plunges to Earth after major failure