04Mar2018

China’s Big Space Lab May Fall to Earth This Month

 An artist’s illustration of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab in Earth orbit. Credit: CMSA


An artist’s illustration of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab in Earth orbit.
Credit: CMSA

The European Space Agency (ESA) has issued a new re-entry forecast for China’s Tiangong-1 space lab. The 8.5-ton spacecraft is now expected to fall into Earth’s atmosphere between March 24 and April 19.

The agency stressed though that this is a rough estimate. “Re-entry will take place anywhere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south (e.g. Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, etc.)” latitude, officials with the Space Debris Office at ESA’s European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, wrote in an update last week. “Areas outside of these latitudes can be excluded. At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible.”

Tiangong-1 was the first space lab built by China. It launched in late September 2011, to help the nation master the technologies needed to construct and operate a crewed space station. China aims to have such a station up and running in Earth orbit by the 2020s.

A map showing the area between 42.8 degrees north and 42.8 degrees south latitudes (in green), over which Tiangong-1 could re-enter. The graph at left shows population density.

A map showing the area between 42.8 degrees north and 42.8 degrees south latitudes (in green), over which Tiangong-1 could re-enter. The graph at left shows population density. Credit: ESA CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

The first Chinese orbital docking occurred between Tiangong-1 and an unpiloted Shenzhou spacecraft on Nov. 2, 2011. Two crewed missions later visited Tiangong-1: Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10, which launched in June 2012 and June 2013, respectively. Source: Space.Com

Read previous post:
Confirmed! DES16C2nm is the Most Distant Supernova Yet!

We’re always trying to find new ways to see further...

Mysterious Moon Myths

By the light of a full moon, it seems that...

Facts About Outer Space

Readers love trivia and finding out about stuff! I've got...

Close