A Long March 3B rocket stage re-entered the atmosphere on January 15, 2016 after three months in orbit, making a slow decay from a highly elliptical Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The Long March 3B rocket launched the Apstar-9 communications satellite.
NORAD ID: 40983
Object: CZ-3B Rocket Body
Type: Long March 3B Upper Stage
Dry Mass: 2,740 Kilograms
Launched: October 16, 2015 – 16:16 UTC
Launch Vehicle: Long March 3B
Launch Site: Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China
Re-Entry Prediction: January 15, 2016 – 05:51 UTC +/-7Min.
Re-Entry Zone: Pacific Ocean, South America
The re-entry of the Long March 3B Rocket Stage was observed from Chile and Bolivia at 5:53-5:54 UTC on January 15, providing a perfect match in terms of timing and geographic location.
A number of videos were uploaded to YouTube and local newspapers picked up on the fireball observation which showed the typical slow speed of artificial object re-entries and the characteristic fragmentation of a rocket body, highlighted by dense components such as engines and pressurant tanks pulling out in front of the principal debris cloud.