The local news ran several videos shot by Utahns of the Chinese upper stage breaking up over Utah last night, and I can confidently state that whatever I saw… it wasn’t that.
- The upper stage appears to have been relatively low in the sky; what I saw was directly overhead
- The upper stage was a large collection of bits,a stretched-out cloud of junk. What I saw was *one* distinct object that only broke into two or three just before it burned out.
- No matter how I work it out, what I saw seems to have been about ten minutes earlier than the upper stage entry.
It seems statistically unlikely that two man-made objects would re-enter that close together in space and time and *not* be related. So… perhaps I saw a payload fairing or an interstage structure? An upper stage includes things like propellant tanks which would react badly to re-entry dynamic pressure and heating, and should break up early resulting in the shower of sparks other people saw, but a tankless structural element might hold together as a single chunk long enough to burn out.
Or maybe that was the Chinese *payload* entering a bit early… hmmmm…