China's space station may fall back to earth tomorrow

China's space station may fall back to earth tomorrow

China's Tiangong-1 space station which is hurtling towards earth will reenter the atmosphere tomorrow and is expected to fall anywhere from Australia to the US.

The space lab, will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere tomorrow, the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said.

Tiangong-1 orbited at an average altitude of 167.6 kms. The space lab will mostly be burnt up in the atmosphere and it's highly unlikely to cause any damage on the ground, according to an article published by CMSEO recently.

With a weight of about eight tons, Tiangong-1 is much smaller the 80-ton Skylab and 140-ton Mir, and is unlikely to affect aviation activities or cause damage on the ground, state-run Xinhua news agency quoted CMSEO as saying.

As it continues to fall, the main structure of the spacecraft will be burnt or explode from increasing heat and friction. It normally disintegrates at an altitude of about 80 kms, it said.

The fragments will keep burning and most of them will be dissipated in the air. Only a small amount of debris will reach the ground, and will float down at a very slow speed due to their small mass, it said. The European Space Agency forecast the space lab's re-entry for about 7.25 am China time on Monday.

Based on its current trajectory, scientists have said the space station could land anywhere from Australia to the US, with the southern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula included in the strip of the US from northern California to Pennsylvania where it might crash down, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

Authorities in the US state of Michigan were taking no chances, however, and have put emergency teams on standby in preparation for the possibility of it landing on their patch, it said. Launched in September 2011, Tiangong-1 was an experimental space lab with a designed life of two years. The lab completed its main missions in June 2013.

China plans to finalise its space station to rival Mir, the Russian space station currently in orbit, by 2022.  

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