New Tiangong-1 Space Station Reentry Forecast Released

Posted: Apr 1 2018, 2:15pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 2 2018, 12:56am CDT, in Latest Science News


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New Tiangong-1 Space Station Reentry Forecast Released
Credit: ESA

Reentry of Tiangong-1 Space Station is now forecasted for late Sunday, April 1. Updated.

Update: The Tiangong-1 has reentered Earth's atmosphere.

The European Space Agency has issued a new reentry forecast for the out-of-control Chinese Space Station on April 1. The new update is not an April Fools' joke. Tiangong-1 might even miss April 1.

ESA issued a new forecast for reentry on Sunday with a tighter timeframe of reentry. The time window is now between 7pm ET to around midnight ET.

Update: Here is the newest update from ESA: "Just over an hour ago, ESA’s space debris team provided their final estimate for reentry, forecasting a window of about four hours and centered on 01:07 UTC (03:07 CEST) on 2 April."

"With the latest available orbital data and space weather forecasts, the re-entry prediction window stabilized and shrunk further to a time frame running from the night of 1 April to the early morning of 2 April (in UTC time)," says the new update.

The unpredictability about the reentry forecast is caused by a high-speed stream of particles from the Sun, which was expected to reach Earth and influence our planet’s geomagnetic field, did, in fact, not have any effect, and calmer space weather around Earth and its atmosphere are now expected in the coming days.

"This means that the density of the upper atmosphere, through which Tiangong-1 is moving, did not increase as predicted (which would have dragged the spacecraft down sooner) and hence the ESA Space Debris Office has adjusted the predicted decay rate," explained ESA.

In September 2016, Chinese officials confirmed that they had lost control of the space lab. The initial reentry estimate was 2017, but now we are finally close to the end of Tiangong-1.

The 8.5-ton and 10m Tiangong-1 space laboratory, which means "Heavenly Palace”, was launched on Sept. 30, 2011. It was a major step towards China’s goal of having a permanent space station by 2022.

Most of Tiangong-1 will burn up on reentry. Some small parts could survive as debris and crash to Earth. According to the European Space Agency, debris is expected to come down between 43ºN and 43ºS. Areas above or below these latitudes can be excluded. See the map below to find out if you are safe.

Tiangong-1 crash map

Tiangong-1 current altitude is around 160km. The reentry is very hard to forecast and ESA is only able to predict the time with a variability of plus minus 20%. This variability is largely driven by inaccuracy in forecasting the density of the lower layers of the thermosphere.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/2" rel="author">Luigi Lugmayr</a>
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