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

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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.