Runaway Chinese space station Tiangong-1 streaks across Malaysian skies

China's Tiangong-1 Space Station, which is currently falling towards Earth, left a streak across Malaysian skies for 81 seconds on March 30, 2018.
China's Tiangong-1 Space Station, which is currently falling towards Earth, left a streak across Malaysian skies for 81 seconds on March 30, 2018.PHOTO: TWITTER/FRAUNHOFER FHR ENGL.

KUALA LUMPUR (BERNAMA, CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, REUTERS) - China's Tiangong-1 Space Station, which is currently falling towards Earth, left a streak across Malaysian skies for 81 seconds from 3.19am Friday (March 30).

It was estimated that for the 90-second duration, the altitude of the Tiangong-1 dropped from 182.462km to 182.407km, according to the re-entry forecast issued by the National Space Agency (Angkasa).

Angkasa reminded the public to not touch or pick up any suspicious objects.

The public was also asked to call the emergency line 999 to report any sighting together with their location and time, preferably with a video of the re-entry.

Meanwhile, Angkasa director-general Dr Noordin Ahmad said the probability of the Tiangong-1 falling in Malaysia was remote, with only a 0.09 per cent probability.

"Angkasa has been monitoring the drop in the Tiangong-1's altitude since November 2017," he said, adding that Angkasa was working with the National Security Council to face any possibility.

China Manned Space Agency is closely monitoring the status of Tiangong I and provide information on its orbit and estimated time of re-entry.

The latest estimate says that Tiangong-I is expected to make re-entry by Monday.

The European Space Agency had earlier narrowed the range for Tiangong-1's (its Chinese name) likely re-entry to between March 30 and April 2.

Sources close to the matter told China Daily that it is extremely difficult to predict the exact time and location of the spacecraft's re-entry due to a host of factors such as the unpredictability of upper atmospheric drag and the ultrafast speed of the spacecraft, which weighs 8,500kg.

The craft is expected to hit speeds of 27,000 km per hour and partly burn up during re-entry. The rest will break up into fragments that could cover thousands of square kilometres, though the risk to people will be very small, experts promise.

"There have been 13,000 tonnes of space hardware coming down in the whole history of space flight and there has not been a single casualty reported," Holger Krag, head of European Space Agency's Space Debris Office, told Reuters TV.

It will come down somewhere between the 43rd north and south parallels, roughly between the latitudes of London in Britain and Wellington in New Zealand, but it is impossible to be any more specific, ESA's Krag said.


A model of the Tiangong-1 space lab module (left), the Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft and three Chinese astronauts is displayed during a news conference at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province, China, on June 15, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

Anyone lucky enough to be looking at the right part of the sky when Tiangong-1 starts its fiery descent will likely see a glowing object moving for several minutes, like a shooting star but slower.

"It is very rare to see something like this," Krag said.

 

Astronomers are doing their best to track the big chunk of space junk, and some have even managed to get images of the elusive structure, reported www.cnet.com.

Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace 1", China's first space lab, was launched into orbit in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China's ambitious space programme, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

On March 21, 2016, Chinese space agency officials announced that Tiangong-1 had officially ended its service and that the telemetry link with the spacelab had been lost.

Shortly thereafter, US satellite observers noticed that it appeared to be in a slow, uncontrolled roll as it circled Earth. It's been space junk ever since, reported www.space.com.