China’s space station to crash into Earth

China’s space station to crash into Earth
BEIJING - China’s Tiangong-1 or ‘Heavenly Palace’ space station looks set for a fiery end some time in the next 12 months, threatening to rain down debris on a yet-to-be-confirmed location here on Earth.

Launched in 2011, the 8.5 tonne (8,500kg) Chinese space station has been in a decaying orbit since it ceased functioning on March 16, 2016. Its current average altitude is roughly 349km (216 miles) above the Earth and it is dropping at a rate of approximately 160 meters per day.

“Now that [its] perigee is below 300km and it is in denser atmosphere, the rate of decay is getting higher,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist from Harvard University, as cited by The Guardian. “I expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.”

The majority of the craft will burn up in the atmosphere, however, several pieces weighing up to 100kg are still expected to slam into the Earth.