China's space station Tiangong-1 set to fall back to Earth

China's space station Tiangong-1 set to fall back to Earth

Chinese space station Tiangong-1 is falling to Earth in an uncontrolled plummet that could see the space craft plunge through our atmosphere this Easter weekend. China's out-of-control space station, Tiangong-1, is getting very close to its expected date of re-entry.

The Aerospace Corporation estimates that Tiangong-1 will re-enter somewhere between the latitudes of 43° north and south, which is a range similar to other space junk that has fallen in recent years, including Germany's ROSAT satellite and the European Space Agency's GOCE satellite in 2013. It served as a test site for China to try out long-term stays in space and orbital docking maneuvers.

"Anything is always possible but it's just highly unlikely that this one fuel tank that may or may not survive is going to slam into someone's house or into someone", Flinders University space archaeologist Alice Gorman told AAP.

Also known by its English translation, "Heavenly Palace", the out-of-control station is heading back into the atmosphere sometime around April 1.

It's hard to calculate where parts of the spacecraft could crash into Earth, experts say.

The Aerospace Corporation put the odds of someone being hit at less than one in a trillion.

To reduce this uncertainty, the prediction of the space station's decaying orbit is being monitored and updated with each pass of the Tiangong-1 over Bologna.

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It is due to the Maltese scientists' efforts that for the first time a multi-pixel system has been installed on the Bologna radio telescope to watch the debris fall towards the earth.

The UAI has compiled a table that lists when Tiangong-1 will be passing over or near parts of Italy: find the data here.

Tiangong-1's potential re-entry areas.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques (Fraunhofer FHR) are monitoring the 8.5-ton (7.7 metric tons) space station module using a tracking and imaging radar system, which they say is one of the most powerful such radars worldwide.

The laboratory comprised several modules and was able to support up to three astronauts for two weeks at a time.

Dr Zhu Jin, director of Beijing Planetarium, said, however, that the chances of anyone being hit by a piece of falling debris were lower than those of winning the lottery.

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