China Space Lab Mostly Burns Up on Re-Entry in South Pacific

April 01, 2018 09:13 PM

Chinese space authorities say the defunct Tiangong 1 space station mostly burned up on re-entry into the atmosphere over the central South Pacific.

The China Manned Space Engineering Office said the experimental space laboratory re-entered around 8:15 a.m. Monday.

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Scientists monitoring the craft's disintegrating orbit had forecast the craft would mostly burn up and would pose only the slightest of risks to people. Analysis from the Beijing Aerospace Control Center showed it had mostly burned up.

Launched in 2011, Tiangong 1 was China's first space station, serving as an experimental platform for bigger projects, such as the Tiangong 2 launched in September 2016 and a future permanent Chinese space station.

Two crews of Chinese astronauts lived on the station while testing docking procedures and other operations. Its last crew departed in 2013 and contact with it was cut in 2016.

Since then, it has orbited gradually closer and closer to Earth on its own while being monitored.

Earlier forecasts had said only about 10 percent of the bus-sized, 8.5-ton spacecraft would likely survive re-entry, mainly its heavier components such as its engines.
 


UPDATE: BEIJING (AP) – The Latest on the defunct Chinese space station re-entering Earth's atmosphere (all times local):

9 a.m.

Chinese space authorities say the defunct Tiangong 1 mostly burned up upon re-entering the Earth's atmosphere in the central South Pacific.

The China Manned Space Engineering Office says on its website the experimental space lab re-entered at around 8:15 a.m. Monday.
Tiangong 1 was launched in 2011 and ended service in 2016 after completing its mission.


UPDATE: Chinese space authorities say the defunct Tiangong 1 space station is expected to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere soon.

The China Manned Space Engineering Office says on its website the most possible re-entry time is 8:49 a.m. Monday. Xinhua news agency says the window is between 8:11 a.m. and 9:33 a.m.

Tiangong-1 is forecast to re-enter in an area centered on 19.4 degrees west longitude and 10.2 degrees south latitude in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

The space lab will mostly be burnt up in the atmosphere and it's highly unlikely to cause any damage on the ground.


China's defunct Tiangong 1 space station hurtled toward Earth on Sunday and was expected to re-enter the atmosphere within hours.

Most of the craft should burn up on re-entry, so scientists said it poses only a slight risk to people on the ground.

The European Space Agency forecast that the station, whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace," will re-enter sometime between Sunday night and early Monday GMT. The Chinese space agency said it should happen during the course of Monday Beijing time.

The Aerospace Corp. predicted Tiangong 1's re-entry would take place within 2 ½ hours of either side of 0010 GMT Monday (8.10 p.m. Sunday EDT.)

Based on the space station's orbit, it will come back to Earth somewhere 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south, a range covering most of the United States, China, Africa, southern Europe, Australia and South America. Out of range are Russia, Canada and northern Europe.

Only about 10 percent of the bus-sized, 8.5-ton spacecraft will likely survive being burned up on re-entry, mainly its heavier components such as its engines. The chances of any one person being hit by debris are considered less than one in a trillion.

Launched in 2011, Tiangong 1 was China's first space station, serving as an experimental platform for bigger projects, such as the Tiangong 2 launched in September 2016 and a future permanent Chinese space station.

The station played host to two crewed missions and served as a test platform for perfecting docking procedures and other operations. Its last crew departed in 2013 and contact with it was cut in 2016.

Since then it has been orbiting gradually closer and closer to Earth on its own while being monitored.

Western space experts say they believe China has lost control of the station. China's chief space laboratory designer Zhu Zongpeng has denied Tiangong was out of control, but hasn't provided specifics on what, if anything, China is doing to guide the craft's re-entry.
 

Credits

The Associated Press

(Copyright 2018 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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