The Tiangong-1 reentry date has been updated by the European Space Agency.
The Chinese space station that weighs over 18,000 pounds and is the size of a school bus, will fall to Earth between March 31 and April 1 in an uncontrolled descent from low-earth orbit.
China had planned a controlled re-entry of Tiangong-1 into Earth’s atmosphere. But on March 16, 2016, China reported to the United Nations that telemetry services with Tiangong-1 had “ceased functioning” which caused the space station to become space junk.
Tiangong-1’s reentry is being closely monitored by The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital and Debris Reentry Studies (CORDS) which focuses on Aerospace’s research and technology applications in the areas of space debris, collision avoidance, and re-entry breakup, providing a single point of contact for debris reporting information.
The Aerospace Corporation estimates that Tiangong-1 will re-enter somewhere between the latitudes of 43° north and south, which is a range similar to other space junk that has fallen in recent years, including Germany’s ROSAT satellite and the European Space Agency’s GOCE satellite in 2013.
China’s first space station, Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace,” was launched aboard a Long March 2F/G rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on September 30, 2011.
Two manned missions to Tiangong-1 were completed.
Shenzhou 9 launched on June 16, 2012, with three astronauts, including China’s first female astronaut, fighter pilot Liu Yang. On this mission, the crew spent 11 days at the station and completed two dockings – one computer-controlled and one crew-guided.
Shenzhou 10, the second mission to the station, launched on June 11, 2013, with three astronauts aboard. On this mission, the crew spent 13 days at the station, completed the first orbital maintenance, and performed additional docking tests.
All images courtesy of The Aerospace Corporation.