A huge orbiting Chinese space station could crash to Earth in a fireball, experts have warned.
The massive Tiangong-1 satellite, launched in 2011, has lost radio connection with China’s space agency, and China has now admitted it will fall to Earth.
The craft, whose name means ‘heavenly palace’ is now dipping into Earth’s atmosphere, and heading towards our planet.
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Jonathan McDowell of Harvard University said, ‘Now that perigee is below 300km and it is in denser atmosphere, the rate of decay is getting higher. I expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.’
Most pieces of space junk burn up on re-entry, but because of its size, pieces of Tiangong-1 might reach the ground.
It will be difficult to predict where it comes down – although previous uncontrolled re-entries of spacecraft have never injured anyone, McDowell said.
… the 8-tonne Tiangong honestly doesn't worry me, but deorbiting it under control would certainly have been 'best practice'.
— Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) October 15, 2017
He said in 2016, ‘You really can’t steer these things. even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won’t know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it’s going to come down. Not knowing when it’s going to come down translates as not knowing where it’s going to come down.’