China’s out-of-control space station, Tiangong-1, is expected to fall to Earth in early 2018, sources reveal.
Launched in September 2011, the 8 ton space lab was considered a major step towards China’s goal of building its first own space station. Despite the success of the launch, Chinese space agency confirmed last year that they have lost contact with the module and that it will crash back down to Earth in 2017. But new estimates suggest that the space station will re-enter Earth at some point between October 2017 and April 2018. Since the space station is not following its planned trajectory, it will enter Earth’s atmosphere in an unpredictable manner. There are still very low chances of burning debris falling on populated areas.
“Now that (its) perigee is below 300km and it is in denser atmosphere, the rate of decay is getting higher.” Jonathan McDowell, a renowned astrophysicist from Harvard University told the Guardian.
“I expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.”
China revealed its plans to build a space station in 2007. The space station was originally designed for a lifespan of two years. Later, the operation was extended for further two but the purpose behind it was never disclosed.
Tiangong-1, which means heavenly palace in English, comprises of single-module with only one docking port for Shenzhou spacecraft. The spacecraft visited space station multiple times during its operational lifetime. After the departure of the last crew in June 2013, the space station was put into a sleep mode in order to maitain ground control. Despite that, Tiangong-1 stopped sending signals in February 2016.