Tiangong-1 is no more

Tiangong-1JChina’s prototype space station, whose name translates as “Heavenly Palace 1,” met a fiery end in Earth’s atmosphere today (April 1), breaking apart and burning up in the skies over the southern Pacific Ocean at about 8:16 p.m. EDT (0016 April 2 GMT), according to the U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC).


“The JFSCC used the Space Surveillance Network sensors and their orbital analysis system to confirm Tiangong-1’s re-entry,” U.S. Air Force officials wrote in a statement. [Tiangong-1: China’s Falling Space Station in Pictures]

Some pieces of the school-bus-size Tiangong-1 almost certainly survived the fall, but the odds that

they caused any damage or injury are extremely small: You had a less than 1-in-1-trillion chance of getting hit by a flaming chunk of the heavenly palace, according to experts with the Aerospace Corporation. 


Tiangong 1 due to re-enter 1400 GMT on 1st April

By Tariq Malik, Space.com Managing Editor | March 29, 2018


  ARLINGTON, Va. – The falling Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is tumbling in orbit and may crash back to Earth early Easter Sunday (April 1), experts say. Estimates for the crash of Tiangong-1 range sometime between March 31 and April 1, with a focus of 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) on April 1, according to Aerospace Corp., which is tracking the space lab’s fall. That April 1 target comes with an error of 16 hours, so the spacecraft could potentially begin its fiery death dive anytime between Saturday and Sunday afternoon. An analysis by the European Space Agency also supports that re-entry estimate. Tiangong-1GTiangong-1H But scientists and engineers still cannot pinpoint exactly where and when the 9.4-ton (8.5 metric tons) space station will fall. Partly that is because the school bus-size Tiangong-1 is tumbling as it falls, which makes it hard to predict how atmospheric drag will affect the spacecraft’s re-entry time and path, Aerospace Corp. engineers said Wednesday (March 28). “It is tumbling,” Roger Thompson, a senior engineering specialist with Aerospace Corp., told reporters at the company’s office here Wednesday. “We have been able to confirm that there is a tumble, we just can’t tell the orientation.” Aerospace Corp. confirmed using U.S. Air Force radar data and telescope observations, Thompson said.]]>

Here's How to See the Chinese Space Station's Final Orbits and Fiery Fall

By Joe Rao, Space.com Skywatching Columnist | March 27, 2018

China’s first-ever space laboratory, Tiangong-1, will fall to Earth within the next week and, weather permitting, you may get an opportunity to see it in one of its final trips around our planet. And, if you’re very lucky, you might even get a chance to see it disintegrate into a fiery ball as it streaks across the sky. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkt6ZBAZX6c   The space lab launched on Sept. 29, 2011, from Jiuquan, China, and was christened Tiangong-1, which means “Heavenly Palace.” A robotic spacecraft, Shenzhou-8, docked with Tiangong-1 in early November 2011, followed by two crewed missions: Shenzhou-9 in June 2012, and Shenzhou-10 in June 2013. Both missions carried three Chinese astronauts and lasted for two weeks. On March 21, 2016, Chinese space agency officials announced that Tiangong-1 had officially ended its service and that the telemetry link with the spacelab had been lost. Shortly thereafter, U.S. satellite observers noticed that it appeared to be in a slow, uncontrolled roll as it circled Earth. It’s been space junk ever since. [China’s Space Station Crash: Everything You Need to Know]   Spacecraft trackers with the Aerospace Corp. predict Tiangong-1 will fall to Earth between early morning March 30 and early morning April 2, with Easter Sunday (April 1) among the likely targets. Tiangong-1 is currently circling Earth about every 88 minutes at an average altitude of 134 miles (215 kilometers) — about half the altitude of the International Space Station — and getting lower each day.  Tiangong-1d Since Tiangong-1 is tumbling, watch for rapid changes in its brightness as it tracks across the sky. You are given the option of getting a schedule for only the visible (pre-sunrise) passes, or all the passes … that also includes those occurring during the daytime; a handy tool to have if you are hoping to catch a glimpse of the re-entry fireball (if it occurs within your viewing range). You should frequently check Heavens Above for an updated sighting schedule; as the space lab gets closer to re-entry, the times of visibility could change noticeably.  As far as pinning down the time and location as to when Tiangong-1 will come down, this page at Satflare.com collects and compares different re-entry predictions with orbital figures and re-entry ground bands. Data will be updated many times a day.  Finally, to see the latest ground track of Tiangong-1 and where it is at a given moment, you can visit N2YO.com here

When and where will Tiangong-1 actually fall? 

As of this writing, the best predictions target Easter Sunday (April 1), plus or minus two days.  Tiangong-1bc Part of this uncertainty stems from the fact that a very small error in the calculated height of the space lab at a given time can lead to a large error in the expected time and place of re-entry. Being large in cross-sectional area, at 34 feet in length and 11 feet in diameter (10.4 by 3.4 meters), but relatively small in mass, at 9.4 tons (8.5 metric tons), Tiangong-1 is sensitive to solar radiation pressure. [Tiangong-1: China’s Falling Space Station in Pictures] Moreover, the vertical extent of the atmosphere is affected by relatively small changes in solar activity, which cannot be precisely predicted. For example, the increased ultraviolet radiation associated with a solar flare heats the upper atmosphere, causing it to expand. This increases the drag on Tiangong-1.   As to where the space lab will make its final plunge, that, too, is a mystery.  

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