Artist’s view of Tiangong space lab
Credit: CMSE

The European Space Agency (ESA) has issued a new reentry window forecast for China’s Tiangong-1 space lab.

The current estimated reentry of the 8.5 ton spacecraft is now roughly March 24 to roughly April 19, noting that this prediction is highly variable.

Map showing the area between 42.8 degrees North and 42.8 degrees South latitude (in green), over which Tiangong-1 could reenter. Graph at left shows population density.
Credit: ESA CC BY-SA IGO 3.0

According to the Space Debris Office at ESA’s European Space Operations Center (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany: “Reentry will take place anywhere between 43ºN and 43ºS (e.g. Spain, France, Portugal, Greece, etc.). Areas outside of these latitudes can be excluded. At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible.”

Credit: ESA

Due to the orbital inclination of the Tiangong-1, approximately 42.8 degrees, and the likely uncontrolled nature of the reentry, the final impact point can be anywhere on Earth between 42.8 degrees North and 42.8 degrees South in latitude.

Credit: ESA

Tiangong-1 is the first space station built by China and lofted in late September 2011.




The first Chinese orbital docking occurred between Tiangong-1 and an unpiloted Shenzhou spacecraft on November 2, 2011. Two piloted missions were completed to visit Tiangong-1: Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10.


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