Artist’s concept of the soon to fall Tiangong-1 in Earth orbit.
Credit: CMSA

A new forecast on the reentry of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab has been issued by The Aerospace Corporation’s Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS).

Tiangong-1 is predicted to reenter in early April 2018, plus or minus 1.5 weeks.

This prediction was performed by The Aerospace Corporation on February 14 and assumes an uncontrolled reentry (no thrusting).

According to CORDS, the orbit of Tiangong-1 as of February 14: Apogee (highest point in the orbit) equals 173 miles (279 kilometers); Perigee (lowest point in the orbit) is 157 miles (252 kilometers).

For reference, the International Space Station is in a 249 mile (400 kilometer) circular orbit.

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.

Surviving debris

At launch, this Chinese space lab weighed 18,740 pounds (8,500 kilograms).

As explained by CORDS, there is a chance that a small amount of Tiangong-1 debris may survive reentry and impact the Earth.

Credit: The Aerospace Corporation (CORDS)

Should this happen, any surviving debris would fall within a region that is a few hundred kilometers in size and centered along a point on the Earth that the station passes over.

A map depicts the relative probabilities of debris landing within a given region.

Yellow indicates locations that have a higher probability while green indicates areas of lower probability. Blue areas have zero probability of debris reentry since Tiangong-1 does not fly over these areas (north of 42.7° N latitude or south of 42.7° S latitude).

These zero probability areas constitute about a third of the total Earth’s surface area.

DSS Antsy image showing Tiangong-1 acquired January 15, 2018
Credit: 2018 Deimos Sky Survey



High-tech observation

Meanwhile, a recent European Space Agency blog post comes courtesy of the team at the Deimos Sky Survey (DeSS).

They use a high-tech automated observatory located on top of Puerto de Niefla, in Valle de Alcudia and Sierra Madrona Natural Park, in central Spain, south of Madrid.

The posting shows Tiangong-1 speeding through space and can be viewed here:

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