Chinese Space Lab Careers Towards Fiery Demise

Chinas-space-station-Tiangong-1-Fraunhofer-Institute-Radar- Credit: AP

A defunct Chinese space lab came to a fiery end over the South Pacific in the early hours of Monday morning.

The 8.5 tonne Tiangong-1 space station mostly burned up over the vast ocean after re-entering Earth’s atmosphere at around 1.15am.

Along with scientists at China’s space agency, teams from around the world closely monitored the lab’s final minutes as it screamed down from the heavens.

Experts said the likelihood of debris striking anyone on the ground was “extremely small”, however precisely where the torched remains would land was unknown.

The chance of being hit by the debris was considered less than one in a trillion, and on average, one inert satellite drops into our atmosphere and burns up every week. Estimates of when and where the re-entry would begin also varied.

With accommodation for two astronauts, China’s first space station – whose name means ‘heavenly palace’ – blasted into orbit aboard a Long March rocket in 2011. The last crew left in 2013 and Tiangong 1 – translated as Celestial Palace 1 – reached the end of its operational life in 2016, gradually getting closer to Earth ever since.

The agency said: “Through monitoring and analysis by Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and related agencies, Tiangong 1 re-entered the atmosphere at about 8.15am, 2 April, Beijing time (1.15am GMT). “The re-entry falling area is located in the central region of the South Pacific. Most of the devices were ablated during the re-entry process.”

The US Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC) also confirmed the Tiangong 1 had re-entered the atmosphere over the South Pacific after coordinating with counterparts in the UK, Europe, Asia and Australia.