Experts mark ‘danger zone’ as Chinese space station ‘will fall to Earth in four months’

Rob Waugh
Tiangong-1 en 2012 / “AFP PHOTO / Jiuquan Space Centre”

A huge orbiting Chinese space station could crash to Earth in an ‘uncontrolled re-entry’ between January and March 2018, experts have warned.

The massive 8.5-tonne Tiangong-1 satellite, launched in 2011, lost radio connection with China’s space agency and is now out of control, the European Space Agency warns.

The ESA says that it’s not clear where it will land, but has offered information on latitudes where fragments might fall.

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The craft, whose name means ‘heavenly palace’ is now dipping into Earth’s atmosphere, and heading towards our planet.

Most pieces of space junk burn up on re-entry, but because of its size, pieces of Tiangong-1 might reach the ground.

La station spatiale Tiangong-1 est vouée à s’écraser sur Terre

Holger Krag, head of ESA’s Space Debris Office, said: ‘Owing to the geometry of the station’s orbit, we can already exclude the possibility that any fragments will fall over any spot further north than 43°N or further south than 43°S.

‘This means that re-entry may take place over any spot on Earth between these latitudes, which includes several European countries, for example.

‘The date, time and geographic footprint of the re-entry can only be predicted with large uncertainties.

‘Even shortly before re-entry, only a very large time and geographical window can be estimated.’