Wednesday, July 13, 2016



China’s first space station may be orbiting Earth out of control with potentially lethal consequences, space experts have warned.
The Tiangong-1 satellite is reported to have lost radio connection with China’s space authorities in March this year leaving them with no control over its descent.
Now it is feared the free-wheeling satellite is in a deteriorating orbit and will eventually fall back to Earth.
Satellite tracker Thomas Dorman, who has been monitoring the progress of the spacecraft, told “If I am right, China will wait until the last minute to let the world know it has a problem with their space station.
“It could be a real bad day if pieces of this came down in a populated area … but odds are, it will land in the ocean or in an unpopulated area.”

No comment from China

Nicknamed the “Heavenly Palace”, the satellite was launched by China in September 2011 to be used as a manned space laboratory.
The last manned mission to the space station was completed in June 2013 and the satellite was then placed in sleep mode.
But it was reported on 21 March this year that all telemetry with the space station had failed and since then China’s space agency has not commented on its status.
And according to Dean Cheng, a senior research fellow at the Asian Studies Center at the Heritage Foundation, the Chinese authorities’ silence about the station’s operations could mean it is already in freefall.
He told “That would seem to suggest that it’s not being deorbited under control. That’s the implication.”
China's Long March 2F rocket carrying the Tiangong-1 module, or "Heavenly Palace", blasts off from the Jiuquan launch centre in Gansu province on September 29, 2011. China took its first step towards building a space station when it launched an experimental module ahead of National Day celebrations. AFP PHOTO/STR ***CHINA OUT*** (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
China’s Long March 2F rocket carrying the Tiangong-1 module blasts off from the Jiuquan launch centre in Gansu province (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Dead in space

China’s official press agency Xinhua has confirmed the laboratory is dead in space but claimed it was being continually monitored.
It told The Times: “After an operational orbit of 1,630 days, China’s first space lab Tiangong-1 terminated its data service.
“The flight orbit of the space lab, which will descend gradually in the coming months, is under continued and close monitoring.”
The satellite is thought to be one of around 20,000 pieces of space junk orbiting Earth at a low altitude.
These are expected to either orbit indefinitely or descend to Earth burning up on entry into the atmosphere.

Hazardous consequences

But because of its size Tiangong-1 is one of the few not expected to burn up completely in the atmosphere if it descends to Earth.
It means there is a chance large chunks of the vessel could reach the ground with hazardous consequences.
As satellite tracker Mr Dorman warned: “Sometimes, the odds just do not work out, so this may bear watching.”
China plans to launch its second space station, Tiangong-2, in September this year.
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