Unless reboosted to higher altitude, China’s over 8-ton Tiangong-1space lab is expected to fall to Earth late next year. Credit: CMSE

Unless reboosted to higher altitude, China’s over 8-ton Tiangong-1space lab is expected to fall to Earth late next year.
Credit: CMSE

Sky watchers are monitoring China’s retired space lab that may be headed for an uncontrolled fall to Earth.

Launched on September 29, 2011, Tiangong-1– meaning “Heavenly Palace” was used during Shenzhou-8 (unpiloted), Shenzhou-9 (piloted) and Shenzhou-10 (piloted) spacecraft missions.

Types of equipment used by amateur satellite tracker, Thomas Dorman, to keep a watchful eye on overhead satellite traffic. Credit: Thomas Dorman

Types of equipment used by amateur satellite tracker, Thomas Dorman, to keep a watchful eye on overhead satellite traffic.
Credit: Thomas Dorman

The over eight-ton craft is a stepping stone to China’s larger space complex to be constructed in Earth orbit around 2020.

 

Flying mode

Tiangong-1 completed its main duty following the piloted Shenzhou-10’s return to Earth in June 2013. The vessel then entered an in-orbit operation management phase. It went through switches in its flying mode, orbit maintenance maneuvers, and other activities.

Updated plot of the altitude history of China's Tiangong-1 space lab after its launch on September 29, 2011. Credit: T.S. Kelso

Updated plot of the altitude history of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab after its launch on September 29, 2011.
Credit: T.S. Kelso

Questions are being raised as to the space lab’s overall health and whether or not it’s headed for an uncontrolled reentry in coming months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on this large chunk of Chinese junk, go to my new Space.com story at:

When Will China’s ‘Heavenly Palace’ Space Lab Fall Back to Earth?

By Leonard David, Space.com’s Space Insider Columnist

June 10, 2016 07:00 am ET

http://www.space.com/33140-china-tiangong-1-space-lab-falling-to-earth.html

One Response to “China’s “Heavenly Palace” – Headed for a Hellish Demise?”

  • Phil Clark says:

    Much fuss about nothing. If the Chinese still have some control over Tianging 1 – and we only know that some experimental data links have been lost – then they will do what the Soviets did with their Salyuts: let it loose altitude and a few weeks before natural decay is due switch on the motor and de-orbit the lab over the Pacific Ocean.

    Why should the Chinese say anything? Orbital decay is around 15-18 months away so plenty of time for situations to change. Not everyone is as careless as NASA was with the Skylab station – and that was about ten times heavier than Tiangong 1!!

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