Chinese space station ‘Tiangong-1’ is in the news for quite a while now. It is the first space station launched by China to contribute towards space exploration launched back in 2011. However, as latest as 2016, the space agency lost control over Tiangong-1 and later, it was decommissioned and deorbited. After losing control over the space lab which has been falling towards the Earth since a few months now, researchers across the globe are trying to pinpoint the exact location of its re-entry and crash as well as the date at which it will enter, however, there are certain constraints on estimated the re-entry date and sites such as its velocity relative to the Earth, its rotating and mass, and other parameters.
Both European Space Agency (ESA) and Aerospace Corporation estimated that the space lab will make a re-entry between March 24 and April 6. According to the recent data collected and presented by a paleolithic archaeologist Dr. Marco Langbroek who is an avid satellite tracker, the space tab might make its re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere on March 31 give or take 3 days. However, knowing the estimated date of en-entry is just one side of the coin. On the flip side, the location where it will crash or plunge is still unknown and not estimated due to many reasons.
According to Popular Mechanics, knowing the pinpoint location of its re-entry is impossible. It is because the space station revolves around the Earth several times per day which means, even a difference of few minutes can take the station to a completely different part. According to the estimates, the station might plunged into the Earth’s atmosphere within 45-degree North latitude and 43-degree South latitude which is coincidentally the region with most human population that includes countries but not limited to India, Australia, Brazil, United States, Egypt, China, Mexico, etc while the major portion of this region is covered with a lot of oceans.
Even if the space station plunges into a populated area, it won’t cause much harm since it will burn upon entry. Even if some pieces of the spacecraft escape from the atmosphere, the chances of getting hit by any piece are equivalent to 1 in 10 million chances of getting hit by a lightning bolt in a year which is extremely low. Although scientists are still concerned with the toxic substance that it might contain such as Hydrazine for which, even a trace amount if escapes the Earth’s atmosphere can cause a problem.
— Dr Marco Langbroek (@Marco_Langbroek) March 20, 2018“
Dr. Marco Langbroek has been tracking the fall of the space station for a few weeks now. He pointed out the current altitude of the space station which is at 215 km off Earth as on March 20. It is estimated that the station is oscillating at around 5.5 days peak-to-peak and falling towards Earth at a velocity of 2 to 3 km per day which will increase rapidly in the coming days due to Earth’s gravitational pull. He pointed out that the space station will start burning up at 100 km from Earth’s surface and eventually initiate breaking apart at 70 to 80 km of altitude. Once again, the space station might plunge on March 31, give or take 3 days. When it will enter into the Earth’s atmosphere, it will form into a spectacular fireball which will be worth watching.