Defunct Chinese space lab set to re-enter Earth's atmosphere

03 April, 2018, 03:06 | Author: Wilson Dawson
  • Tiangong-1 reentry updates | Rocket Science - ESA's blogs

"The high speeds of returning satellites mean they can travel thousands of kilometres during that time window, and that makes it very hard to predict a precise location of reentry", Holger Krag, head of debris for the European Space Agency, said in a blog post for the organization.

ESA officials say the likely window for Tiangong 1 re-entry is between 8:00 p.m. EDT Sunday and early Monday morning.

The Aerospace Corp. predicted Tiangong 1's re-entry would take place within two hours of either side of 10.18am AEDT.

CBS News reports that the spacecraft only poses a slight risk to people and property, as most of the satellite is expected to burn up upon re-entry. "We have been able to confirm that there is a tumble, we just can't tell the orientation".

The colorless and volatile liquid, used in Tiangong-1's engine for fuel, is unsafe to humans.

Tiangong-1 had been slated for a controlled re-entry, but ceased functioning in March 2016.

Experts say most of it will burn up, but there will be some pieces that will land on earth. No one on the ground was injured.


In the years that followed it was used in docking and orbiting experiments as part of China's ambitious space programme, which aims to put a permanent space station in orbit by the early 2020s.

"Space junk this size falls to Earth a few times a year", NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reports, but "it's usually something like a spent rocket stage - not a home-away-from-home for space travelers".

Shenzhou 9 launched on June 16, 2012, with three astronauts, including China's first female astronaut, fighter pilot Liu Yang. Its last crew departed in 2013 and contact with it was cut in 2016. That is tiny compared to the International Space Station, for example.

How advanced is China's space program? It has been visited by two crewed missions.

Launched in 2011 and visited by six Chinese astronauts, the 10m-long, 8.5-tonne Tiangong module was supposed to have been de-orbited in a planned manner. The completed 60-ton station is set to come into full service in 2022 and operate for at least a decade. It plans to send a manned mission to the moon in the future.

Based on its current trajectory, scientists have said the space station could land anywhere from Australia to the U.S. with the southern part of Michigans Lower Peninsula included in the strip of the United States? from northern California to Pennsylvania? where it might crash down, the report said.

The Chinese lost communication with the space station in 2016, meaning the reentry can not be controlled.

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