China launched the Long March 5B carrier rocket with the main module (Tianhe, or "Harmony of the Heavens") for Beijing's future orbital station at the end of April. Tianhe will be the control hub for the Tiangong (or "Heavenly Palace") orbital station that China wants to finish assembling by 2022.
The spent CZ-5B rocket stage is expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere in an uncontrolled descent on May 9 around 02:11 GMT over the Mediterranean Sea near the island of Crete, the latest US Air Force estimates, published by Space-Track.org, show.
Earlier estimates showed that the rocket’s upper stage would fall into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday. The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, released similar predictions on Friday.
Dmitry Rogozi, the head of Roscosmos, said on Telegram that a Russian satellite had managed to take pictures of the CZ-5B rocket body from a distance of about 1,281 kilometers (796 miles), ahead of its re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Wang Wenbin, said on Friday that debris from CZ-5B would mostly burn up upon re-entry into the atmosphere and added that there was very little risk of any significantly large objects hitting the ground.