Published: Tue, March 27, 2018
Sci-tech | By Eric Barnett

China's space station Tiangong-1 set to fall back to Earth

China's space station Tiangong-1 set to fall back to Earth

Relying on modelling techniques of the space station's orbit, and rate of decent, organizations such as the European Space Agency's Space Debris Office, The Aerospace Corporation, and sites such as Satview.org, have been gradually narrowing down the timing of Tiangong-1's re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

In 2016 Tiangong-2 was launched as an update to Tiangong-1 and, by 2022, Beijing plans to have Tiangong-3 in orbit as a fully operational manned space station.

Tiangong-1 set off in 2011 and completed its mission five years later.

An out-of-control Chinese space station is predicted to crash into Earth over the Easter long weekend, experts say.

The European Space Agency is providing re-entry updates every day or two on its blog, including on the lab's potential landing zone, its altitude changes, and the re-entry window, which the agency now puts between March 30 and April 2.

China's 8.5-ton space station will come crashing down to Earth from Saturday onwards, the country's space authorities said, although they cannot confirm where it is likely to hit.

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China's space journey started off quite late.

That compares with a one-in-1.4 million chance of a person being hit by lightning. Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over. The agency said Monday (March 26) that the lab could fall between March 31 to April 4 (link in Chinese). Previously it was informed that the space station may fall between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south latitudes, which is covered with water and some of its parts may hit the ground.

Still, the chances of any piece of debris actually impacting near you are incredibly small, and the odds of being struck by one of those objects is even slimmer.

However, even with this new sophisticated technology, it remains hard to estimate the debris' final landing place with a high degree of accuracy, so the exact moment of the Tiangong-1's descent will only be determined just a few hours before. After that it was just a matter of time before it came crashing down.

Another radar view of China's space station Tiangong-1 as seen by the Tracking and Imaging Radar system at the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques near Bonn, Germany.

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