Tiangong-1 reentry update: April 3rd, give or take a week

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Tiangong-1 landing map

Link here. Right now the de-orbit window of the dead Chinese space station suggests it will come down to Earth sometime around April 3, plus or minus a week. As we get closer this will get refined somewhat, but the uncertainties are always going to be great, until the actual moment it hits the atmosphere.

The map on the right, reduced to post here, comes from the link and was produced by the Aerospace Corporation and indicates the relative possibilities of debris falling in a given region.

Yellow indicates locations that have a higher probability while green indicates areas of lower probability. Blue areas have zero probability of debris reentry since Tiangong-1 does not fly over these areas (north of 42.7° N latitude or south of 42.7° S latitude). These zero probability areas constitute about a third of the total Earth’s surface area.

Depending on orbit, and whether the station is heading north or south in its orbital inclination, the odds of it crashing in populated areas changes significantly. If it is moving north the odds of coming down in the populated mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere go up considerably. Of course, it could just as well come down in the northern mid-latitudes above the Pacific.

Regardless, the risks remain tiny, no matter what. Tiangong-1 is a small module, just large enough for some of it to survive reentry.


One comment

  • Orion314

    Looks like it might land in my front yard in central FL , what a souvenir that would be !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *