Tiangong-1 Space Station Re-Entry and Information
Synopsis: Information regarding the re-entry of Chinese Tiangong-1 Space Station a 40 foot long space station hosted two crews of astronauts in 2012 and 2013, including China's first female taikonaut (Chinese Astronaut).1
Author: Disabled World Contact: disabled-world.com
Published: 2018-04-01 Updated: 2018-04-02
Launched in 2011, the Chinese Tiangong-1, which translates to "Heavenly Palace", 40 foot long space station hosted two crews of astronauts in 2012 and 2013, including China's first female taikonaut (Chinese Astronaut), Liu Yang, in 2012. Its major goal was to test and master technologies related to orbital rendezvous and docking. It is identified by its UN COSPAR ID 2011-053A or NORAD ID 37820.
Tiangong-1 completed its service in 2016 and lost contact with Chinese mission control that year. Since then it's orbit steadily decayed (losing altitude).
It's Over - China's Tiangong-1 Has Crashed to Earth!
- As predicted, Tiangong-1 hit an uninhabited region of Earth, though the fire ball possibly may have been seen by some people in Korea or Japan prior to reentry. Chinese space authorities say Tiangong-1 re-entered the Earth's atmosphere Sunday night, mostly burning up on re-entry over the central South Pacific Ocean. Officials at the Joint Force Space Component Command confirmed Tiangong-1 re-entered after 8 p.m. ET. The reentry was also confirmed with counterparts in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
- April 2, 2018 (6:20AM) - Tiangong-1 stayed at an average altitude of about 132.75 km - Estimated reentry time is at 8:42 am (the earliest time is at 8:24 am and the latest time is at 9:01 am), 2 April, Beijing China time. The re-entry center is located at 40.4°W and 27.4°S.
- April 2, 2018 (5:00AM) - Tiangong-1 stayed at an average altitude of about 138.8 km .The estimated reentry time is at 8:49 am (the earliest time is at 8:11 am and the latest time is at 9:33 am ).on 2 April, Beijing time. The reentry center is located at 19.4°W and 10.2°S.
- April 1, 2018 (8 AM) - Tiangong-1 stayed at an average altitude of about 167.6 km - Estimated re-entry window is on 2 April, Beijing time.
- March 31 - (12AM) - Tiangong-1 average altitude of 179.0 km - Revised estimated re-entry window is 2nd April ±1 day, Beijing, time.*
- March 30 - Tiangong-1 average altitude of 189.5 km - Estimated re-entry window is 1 April ± 1 day , Beijing, time.*
- March 29 - Tiangong-1 average altitude of 196.4 km - Estimated re-entry window is between 31 March and 2 April, Beijing, time.*
- March 28 - Tiangong-1 average altitude of 202.3 km - Estimated re-entry window is between 31 March and 2 April, Beijing, time.*
*Source: China Manned Space - http://en.cmse.gov.cn/col/col1763/index.html
Fig 1. Map shows area (green) between 42.8 degrees north and 42.8 degrees south latitudes over which China's Tiangong 1 Space Station could re-enter. The graph at left shows area population densities. Diagram Credit: ESA CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.
Is Tiangong-1 Carrying Radioactive or Toxic Materials?
The station MAY contain large amounts of toxic chemicals including hydrazine, which is a known carcinogen that has been linked to cancer in humans. The Aerospace Corporation's Center for Orbital and Reentry Debris Studies (CORDS) said a recent warning message, "Potentially, there may be a highly toxic and corrosive substance called hydrazine on board the spacecraft that could survive reentry. For your safety, do not touch any debris you may find on the ground nor inhale vapors it may emit."
Fig 2. Approximate debris field area - Any pieces of Tiangong-1 that survive re-entry will likely fall to Earth along a long - but narrow track, according to analyses by The Aerospace Corporation - Image Credit: The Aerospace Corporation.
If I Find a Piece of Tiangong-1 Can I Keep or Sell It?
Robert Pearlman, editor in chief of the space history and memorabilia site (and Space.com partner) collectSPACE, told Space.com, The law of finders-keepers doesn't apply to space junk. "Any pieces of Tiangong-1 that reach the ground, regardless of where they fall, remain the property of China until the Chinese government explicitly relinquishes ownership". Such ownership is spelled out in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which both China and the United States have signed, Pearlman explained. Besides pieces of the craft could possibly be toxic or radioactive - So should you happen on a part of the spacecraft stay well away and inform your local authorities.
SkyLab Deja Vu
In 1979 America's 77 ton Skylab Space Station fell from orbit, spreading pieces of space junk south of Western Australia. A park service official in Western Australia fined the U.S. $400 for littering. The ticket was issued as a gag and in good fun, and NASA never paid off the $400 fine, though locals donated the money owed and paid the fine for NASA.
In 1991 the Soviet Salyut 7 space station also crashed to Earth, and radioactive fragments from Russian nuclear satellite Kosmos 954 crashed in northern Canada in 1978. The last space outpost to fall from orbit was Russia's 135-ton Mir space station in 2001, which made a controlled landing with most of the debris breaking up in Earth's atmosphere.
Spacecraft Cemetery - Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility
For spacecraft that still remain in control after their useful life is over, mission controllers guide their reentry to a special place on Earth called the Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility, a two and a half mile deep area in the ocean known as the "spacecraft cemetery" located approximately 3,000 miles off the East coast of New Zealand and 2,000 miles north of Antarctica. According to Popular Science over 263 spacecraft have crashed at the cemetery since 1971.
It has been calculated that the probability someone will be struck by space shrapnel debris is about "1 million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot!"
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