News

'Out of control' space station on crash course to Earth

CHINA'S first space station will meet a fiery end next year when the 8.5-tonne module comes crashing down to Earth, amid concerns authorities have lost control of the craft.

The Tiangong-1 space station was launched in September 2011 and currently orbits Earth at an altitude of 230 miles (370km).

But in July, amateur astronomers suggested China had "lost control" of the satellite, after Chinese media reported the country's space agency had struggled to get in contact with it.

Officials have now confirmed that after four and a half years in orbit, Tiangong-1 (meaning Heavenly Palace) is expected to plummet to Earth in late 2017.

Speaking at a satellite launch for the space station's successor in the Gobi Desert in northern China, officials from China's manned space programme said the craft had ended its service in March this year having "comprehensively fulfilled its historical mission". 

Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office said: "Based on our calculation and analysis, most parts of the space lab will burn up during falling."

According to Space.com the less than precise landing time indicates the operators had lost control of the unit, as if they were still able to communicate with it, they could steer it to "a guided re-entry over an empty stretch of ocean at a specified time".

Like other lost satellites, it's likely that the freefalling station will burn up on its way back into Earth and come back down in smaller chunks of molten metal rather than with a big crash.

However, some denser engine parts are unlikely to burn up completely and could potentially cause problems on the ground.

Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell told the Guardian the announcement suggested the doomed craft would now re-enter the Earth's atmosphere naturally, making it near impossible to predict where any debris will fall.

"You really can't steer these things," he said. "Even a couple of days before it re-enters we probably won't know better than six or seven hours, plus or minus, when it's going to come down. Not knowing when it's going to come down translates as not knowing where it's going to come down."

"There will be lumps of about 100kg or so, still enough to give you a nasty wallop if it hit you," he added.

He said that even small changes in atmospheric conditions would be enough to nudge the craft "from one continent to the next".

But according to Chinese news agency Xinhua, Ms Wu said the space station's re-entry was "unlikely to affect aviation activities or cause damage to the ground".

"China has always highly valued the management of space debris, conducting research and tests on space debris mitigation and cleaning," Wu said.

Tiangong-2, China's replacement for the space lab, was successfully launched aboard a Long March 2F rocket on 15 September from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in north west China.

Topics:  china, earth, editors picks, space station


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Things get UGLY as Kylie raises top total of $10k

PRETTY GOOD BEING UGLY: Kylie Ansford has been named the regional winner of the 2016 UGLY Bartender of the Year.

Kylie Ansford named 2016 UGLY Bartender of Year regional winner

Generations of Olives

OLIVE REUNION: Stewart, Les, Allan, Doug, Col, Kenny and Denis Oliver.

Olive descendants reuinte at Dingo.

Country kitchens successful

Renaye Gadsby (QCWA Country Kitchens Dietitian), Raymonda Hall (facilitator for Blackwater) and Fiona McKenzie (QCWA Country Kitchens program co-ordinator).

Blackwater's Country Kitchens program a success.

Local Partners

Police honour their fallen

Police and community pay their respects at National Police Remembrance Day.

Students stay awake for 24-hour ride of their lives

THINKING PINK: The Pink Limousine team from Emerald Christian College came in 110th in the Human Powered Vehicle Championships.

Emerald Christian College entered the RACQ Technology Challenge.

Things get UGLY as Kylie raises top total of $10k

PRETTY GOOD BEING UGLY: Kylie Ansford has been named the regional winner of the 2016 UGLY Bartender of the Year.

Kylie Ansford named 2016 UGLY Bartender of Year regional winner

Generations of Olives

OLIVE REUNION: Stewart, Les, Allan, Doug, Col, Kenny and Denis Oliver.

Olive descendants reuinte at Dingo.

Country kitchens successful

Renaye Gadsby (QCWA Country Kitchens Dietitian), Raymonda Hall (facilitator for Blackwater) and Fiona McKenzie (QCWA Country Kitchens program co-ordinator).

Blackwater's Country Kitchens program a success.

Oh, the artworks you'll see at Moranbah kids' exhibition

CREATIVE YOUNGSTERS: Students Jessie Ferris and Hannah Peterson with their mini masterpieces to be displayed at the Moranbah Coalface Art Gallery.

Moranbah school students are looking forward to showing their art.

Marist students to share musical talents at SHEP

MUSICAL TALENTS: Adam Phillips, Reef Johnson and Elijah Horsfall from Marist College Emerald.

Marist students represent school at State Honours Ensemble Program.

Space event rocks Comet

News

SPACE event sparked concerns of a plane crash.

Classic car auction draws buyers from US, Dubai

"He wants everyone to enjoy the cars, the collection got too big'

Nowhere to Hyde: Matt Nable is Australia's man in demand

Matt Nable stars as Detective Gary Hyde in the TV series Hyde & Seek.

NABLE returns to the small screen amidst busy film work.

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E7: Manifest review

Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E6: Suckas Need Bodyguards review

Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E5: Just To Get A Rep review

Mahershala Ali, centre, in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E4: Step In The Arena review

Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Rob Kardashian admits his first crush was his sister Kim

Rob Kardashian once had a crush on his sister Kim Kardashian West.

Beach-side real estate starts at $85k on Fraser Coast

HERVEY BAY REAL ESTATE: You can buy this townhouse in Scarness for under $300k.

Live your beach-living dream locally.

$40million hotel, shops development project for Mackay

Mt Pleasant hotel and retirement accommodation, proposed at 194-202 Malcomson St.

$40m development to take Mackay to 'the next level'

Property 200m from ocean selling for just over $100K

BEACHCOMBER PARK: Work has started on a new $19.2 million development at Toogoom.

The estate's developer is offering huge discounts for early buyers.

UPDATE: Former rodeo champ's sale rained out, now back on

Larkhill local Ken Consiglio is having an auction of most of the things on his property.

'People kept showing up and we had to turn them away'

First stages of $25 million housing development underway

New development on Madsen Rd - The Springs.

The blocks of land are much bigger than usual

Couple build their own 'tiny house' for $45k

Holly Bowen and Oli Bucher built their "tiny house" themselves, only hiring a plumber and an electrician. Photo/supplied

The house, which is built on a trailer and can be towed.