Tiangong-1 Re-Entry Updates

China's abandoned Tiangong-1 space laboratory is approaching an uncontrolled re-entry on April 1st or 2nd, around two years after the 8.5-metric-ton spacecraft ceased operations and began a slow descent from its Low Earth Orbit. Considered a high-risk object, Tiangong-1 can re-enter anywhere between 43° North and 43° South and a number of fragments of the ten-meter-long spacecraft are expected to survive re-entry and reach the ground.

A detailed overview of the Tiangong-1 mission and its upcoming re-entry is available here.

Tiangong-1 has Re-Entered

The U.S. Joint Space Operations Center announced on Monday, April 2, 2018 that China's Tiangong-1 space laboratory re-entered Earth's atmosphere over the Southern Pacific Ocean. Based on the orbital decay point, all surviving debris will have fallen into the Pacific, away from any major land masses.

Re-Entry occurred at 0:16 UTC ±1 minute over a position of 13.6°S. 195.7°E. (Referring to the 80-Kilometer passage of the object.)

Tiangong-1 Final Orbit & Re-Entry Location
Credit: ESA
Credit: heavens-above.com
Satellite Tracking

Quick Facts

Object: Tiangong-1 (Int. Designator: 2011-053A; NORAD: 37820)

Launch: September 30, 2011 - 3:16 UTC

Site: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China

Launch Mass: 8,506 kg (Dry Mass: ~7,500 kg)

Length: 10.4 m - Module Diameter: 3.35 m - Wingspan: 17 m

Purpose: Serve as China's first long-duration space laboratory to provide information on space station technology and operations as well as required techniques like docking maneuvers in automated & manual mode. Tiangong-1 welcomed the uncrewed Shenzhou-8 docking demonstration in 2011 and the crewed Shenzhou-9 and 10 missions in 2012 and 13.

Planned Mission Duration: 2 Years, Achieved Mission: ~4.5 Years

Potentially Surviving Objects: Docking Mechanism, Windows, Solar Arrays Drive Mechanisms, Pressurization Tanks, Engine Parts

Tiangong-2 – Shenzhou-11 Complex (TG-1 Similar) photographed by the Banxing-2 companion satellite – Credit: CAS/9ifly.cn
Credit: calsky.com