Saturday, March 24, 2018

Tiangong-1 to Fall to Earth Over Easter Weekend

Artist’s rendition of Tiangong-1 in Earth orbit. Image Credit: CMSA

According to new calculations, China’s Tiangong-1 space laboratory will most likely fall to Earth over Easter weekend. ESA and Aerospace Corporation predict that the out-of-control spacecraft will re-enter the atmosphere between March 29 and April 4.

ESA’s Space Debris Office, which coordinates the agency’s research relating to space debris, constantly monitors Tiangong-1’s gradual descent. The latest update published on the office’s website reveals that the space lab should crash to our planet between March 30 and April 2.

However, ESA noted that their estimates are always subject to change, due to an array of variables (for instance the variations of the atmosphere).

Meanwhile, the latest calculations made by Aerospace Corporation, indicate a more wider re-entry window. The non-profit corporation, which provides technical guidance and advice on all aspects of space missions, stated that Tiangong-1 will crash to Earth between March 29 and April 4, most probably on April 1.

When it comes to the possible location of Tiangong-1’s re-entry, both updates further confirm that the spacecraft should fall somewhere between 43 degrees North and 43 degrees South latitudes. This large swath of Earth includes Northern parts of the U.S., as well as countries such as Spain, Italy, Turkey, China, North Korea or Japan in the Northern hemisphere. When it comes to the Southern hemisphere, most probably those locations which might be affected would be: Chile, Argentina, Southern Australia or New Zealand.

Tiangong-1 (which means “Heavenly Palace” in Chinese) is China’s first space laboratory. With a mass of an estimated 8.5 metric tons, Tiangong-1 measures some 34 feet (10.4 meters) long and has a diameter of approximately 11 feet (3.4 meters). The station was launched in September of 2011. Nine months later, in June, 2012, three Chinese taikonauts docked their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft to the station for the first time. The module was visited again in June 2013 when the Shenzhou-10 spacecraft transported another trio of taikonauts.

China lost control over Tiangong-1 on March 16, 2016. It is assumed that the space station ceased functioning due to a dysfunctional battery charger. Beijing officially announced in mid-September of 2016 that the spacecraft was heading for an imminent re-entry, but it did not reveal whether the station’s descent was controlled or not.

2 comments:

  1. Are we in danger? It could hurt the humanity, knowing that what it falls is only fragments?

    ReplyDelete