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◆Title – China’s Tiangong-1 Space Station May Crash in March
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China’s failing space station is most likely to crash in one of these countries
China Tiangong-1: Made-in-China space station getting ready to crash into Earth
Tiangong-1 (Chinese: 天宫一号; pinyin: Tiāngōng yīhào; literally: “Heavenly Palace 1”) is China’s first prototype space station, serving as both a manned laboratory and an experimental testbed to demonstrate orbital rendezvous and docking capabilities. Launched unmanned aboard a Long March 2F/G rocket on 29 September 2011, it is the first operational component of the Tiangong program, which aims to place a larger, modular station into orbit by 2023. Tiangong-1 was initially projected to be deorbited in 2013, to be replaced over the following decade by the larger Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 modules, but as of November 2017 it was still aloft, though in a decaying orbit.
Model of the Tiangong Space Lab and Shenzhou manned spacecraft.
Tiangong-1 was visited by a series of Shenzhou spacecraft during its two-year operational lifetime. The first of these, the unmanned Shenzhou 8, successfully docked with the module in November 2011, while the manned Shenzhou 9 mission docked in June 2012. A third and final mission to Tiangong-1, the manned Shenzhou 10, docked in June 2013. The manned missions to Tiangong-1 were notable for including China’s first female astronauts, Liu Yang and Wang Yaping.
On 21 March 2016, after a lifespan extended by two years, the Space Engineering Office announced that Tiangong-1 had officially ended its service. They went on to state that the telemetry link with Tiangong-1 had been lost. A couple of months later, amateur satellite trackers watching Tiangong-1 found that China’s space agency had lost control of the station. In September, after conceding they had lost control over the station, officials speculated that the station would re-enter and burn up in the atmosphere late in 2017. As of late November 2017, Tiangong-1 is approximately 290 km high and is falling to Earth about 10 km per month. It is expected to deorbit some time in April 2018.
In January 2018 NBC reported that Tiangong-1 is going 16,000 miles per hour (26,000 km/h) and is 180 miles (290 km) above Earth. The station has a high probability of reentering between 43°N and 43°S latitude, at an unknown longitude
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) designed Tiangong- 1 as an 8.5-tonne (19,000 lb) “space-laboratory module”, capable of supporting the docking of manned and autonomous spacecraft. In 2008, the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) released a brief description of Tiangong-1, along with its larger successor modules, Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3. A model of the space station was revealed in the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration program on CCTV on 25 January 2009.
On 29 September 2008, Zhāng Jiànqǐ (张建启), vice-director of the CMSEO, declared in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV) that Tiangong-1 would be launched in 2010 or 2011. Xinhua later stated that Tiangong-1 would be launched in late 2010, and declared that the renovation of ground equipment was in progress. However, the launch did not ultimately take place until 2011.
By mid-2011, the construction of Tiangong-1 was complete, and its systems and thermal properties were undergoing testing. Testing was also conducted on the Long March 2F carrier rocket on which Tiangong-1 would be launched; technicians undertook particularly extensive safety tests on the rocket in August and September 2011, following the launch failure of a Long March 2C rocket on 18 August.
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