Tiangong-1 space laboratory will break apart in the atmosphere of Earth. Pieces weighing as much as 100kg may fall from the skies.
China launched the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 space laboratory in 2011. China was ambitious that the laboratory would become a space superpower.
The Chinese station has been in an orbit around Earth for about six years. Last year, the space station entered into an out-of-control orbit. Now, it is set to come crashing down in a matter of months as its descent is increasing rapidly.
“Now that [its] perigee is below 300km and it is in a denser atmosphere, the rate of decay is getting higher,” said Jonathan McDowell, a renowned astrophysicist from Harvard University and a space industry enthusiast.
“I expect it will come down a few months from now – late 2017 or early 2018.”
Scientists have used it for both manned and unmanned missions and China’s first female astronaut, Liu Yang, has visited it in 2012.
Is anyone in danger from the space debris?
There have been many uncontrolled re-entries of larger spacecraft and none have ever been reported to have caused injuries to people.
Experts expect much of the craft to burn up in the atmosphere. However, McDowell says some parts might still weigh up to 100kg when they crash into the Earth’s surface.
The chance that the debris of the space object will harm anyone on Earth is small. However, China has informed the United Nations in May that it would carefully monitor the craft’s descent.
The country already has a replacement station in the form of Tiangong-2. It can hold two Chinese astronauts, differently known as taikonauts.
Tiangong-2 will weigh just under nine tonnes, measuring more than 10 meters in length. Scientists will use it to test the vital equipment of China’s future space station, including its life support, maintenance, and refueling systems.