China's first prototype space station, the Tiangong-1, is due to crash to Earth between March 30 and April 2 in an uncontrolled re-entry into the atmosphere, according to the European Space Agency's latest prediction. During its extended flight, Tiangong-1 conducted experiments in space technology, space-earth remote sensing and space environment exploration, the office said.
Tiangong-1's decaying orbit is being closely monitored at The Aerospace Corporation's Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS), established in 1997 to leverage our 50-plus years of experience working to mitigate space debris risks, supporting collision avoidance, and modeling the reentry and breakup of space hardware for government and commercial customers.
"This is a space craft that's big enough that at least some pieces will probably survive the reentry and hit the ground somewhere", said Bill Hardwood of CBS Space News. Fuel tanks for instance may be hardened structures still containing toxic fuel as they touch down.
The 9.4-ton (8.5 metric tons) Tiangong-1 is about 34 feet long by 11 feet wide (10.4 by 3.4 meters) and features 530 cubic feet (15 cubic m) of habitable internal volume.
On March 21, 2016 China said it terminated its "data service" with Tiangong-1, allowing it to eventually fall back to Earth.
Also known by its English translation, "Heavenly Palace", the out-of-control station is heading back into the atmosphere sometime around April 1.
The Tiangong-1 project was meant to show the Chinese could, in fact, launch a space station.
No, most of the spacecraft is expected to burn up as it enters Earth's atmosphere.
Since March 14, China has been giving daily updates on the altitude of the vessel. The station is now orbiting between 201 and 221 kilometers in altitude, descending about 4 kilometers per day, according to Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell.
Witnesses may potentially see a "series of fireballs streaking across the sky" if skies are clear, according to Markus Dolensky, of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research. "They stopped getting telemetry from it", Klesman said.
Are we in danger of being hit by debris from the Tiangong-1 as it plummets to Earth? This is a rare phenomenon, it was in 2001 when Russian space station Mir fell on Earth (ocean).
Now the falling space station's descent has sparked a wave of fear among the public, which many experts are fighting hard to dismiss. Some debris fell in sparsely populated Western Australia, incurring no damage except for a $400 fine for littering.
A Chinese space station is expected to crash to Earth soon.