China’s space station Tiangong-1, which had spiralled out of control while falling from space after becoming defunct, has splashed in South Pacific. The space station was all burned up after re-entry into the atmosphere.
China’s Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) has confirmed that the station had re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and had burned up. The re-entry took place at 10:16 am AEST.
The bus-sized space station was less likely to survive re-entry due to its heavy components. According to reports, the station landed north-west of Tahiti.
An astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Jonathan McDowell wrote on Twitter: “North-west of Tahiti – it managed to miss the ‘spacecraft graveyard’ which is further south!”
The Chinese agencies had lost control over the defunct space station. Normally, thrusters are used to steer large spacecraft towards a remote zone over the Southern Ocean; however, in this case, the command over the station had been lost in 2016. With its trajectory, it could have fallen in the United States, China, Africa, southern Europe, Australia and South America.
The spacecraft was launched in 2011 to carry out orbit experiments. It had stopped working in March 2016. The experimental space station had a design life of two years. The heavenly vehicle successfully docked with the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and undertook a series of experiments.
The lab completed its main missions following Shenzhou-10’s return in June 2013.
China plans to finalise its space station to rival Mir, the Russian space station currently in orbit by 2022.