China says space station to re-enter atmosphere off Brazil coast

Apr 05, 2018, 01:23
China says space station to re-enter atmosphere off Brazil coast

China's defunct Tiangong 1 space station hurtled toward Earth Sunday and was expected to re-enter the atmosphere within hours.

The experimental space laboratory re-entered around 8:15 a.m. Beijing time, the China Manned Space Engineering Office said. "The SPOUA has always been used by many space agencies including ESA, to dispose of end-of-life spacecraft through controlled reentries", said the ESA in a blog post.

The Chinese government lost contact with the space station, whose name translates to "Heavenly Palace", 2 years ago and it has been in a decaying orbit ever since.

"The [Joint Force Space Component Command] used the Space Surveillance Network sensors and their orbital analysis system to confirm Tiangong-1's re-entry, and to refine its prediction and ultimately provide more fidelity as the re-entry time approached", U.S. Air Force wrote on its website.

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Asked about the space station, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular briefing he had no other information and reiterated that China had been reporting the situation to the United Nations space agency in an open and transparent way. Scientists could neither alter nor even really track Tiangong-1's descent.

According to current estimates, there are about 160 million pieces of space junk - 22,000 of which are bigger than 4 inches - floating around space uncontrolled.

UPDATE: #JFSCC confirmed #Tiangong1 reentered the atmosphere over the southern Pacific Ocean at ~5:16 p.m. (PST) April 1.

Experts and officials predicted the space station would likely reenter the earth's atmosphere in late 2017.

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A radar image of Tiangong-1 on February 2. They couldn't predict exactly where it would land, but they agreed that the chances of anyone getting hit by falling debris were next to none. The single-module station measured some 34 feet (10.4 meters) long and had a diameter of approximately 11 feet (3.4 meters).

Ms Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the Astronaut Centre of China, said that the module provided "precious experience" for building a space station, Xinhua news agency reported.

In June 2013, female astronaut Wang Yaping aboard Tiangong-1 delivered a lecture to students on Earth about physics, inspiring public enthusiasm for science and space exploration. There was no immediate confirmation of the final resting place of any remaining debris, although the South Pacific is largely empty.

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