China’s Rogue Space Station Tiangong-1 Crashes Over South Pacific

April 1, 2018 Updated: April 2, 2018

SHANGHAI—China’s Tiangong-1 space station re-entered the earth’s atmosphere and mostly burnt up over the middle of the South Pacific near Tahiti on Monday, the Chinese space authority said.

The craft re-entered the atmosphere around 8:15 a.m. Beijing time and the “vast majority” of it had burnt up upon re-entry, the authority said in a brief statement on its website.

It had said shortly before that it was expected to re-enter off the Brazilian coast in the South Atlantic near the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Beijing said on Friday it was unlikely any large pieces would reach the ground.

The 10.4-metre-long (34.1-foot) Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace 1”, was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China’s ambitious space program, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

It was originally planned to be decommissioned in 2013 but its mission was repeatedly extended.

China had said its re-entry would occur in late 2017 but that process was delayed. The Chinese regime admitted to having lost control of the 19,000-pound space station in 2016.

The Chinese tabloid Global Times said on Monday worldwide media hype about the re-entry reflected overseas “envy” of China’s space industry.

“It’s normal for spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere, yet Tiangong-1 received so much attention partly because some Western countries are trying to hype and sling mud at China’s fast-growing aerospace industry,” it said.

The Tiangong-1 space station was launched in September 2011. It is China’s first space station. It hosted manned space missions twice in its lifetime. Chinese taikonauts, in the six years since the station was sent into orbit, have spent a total of 24 days aboard, according to data from Aerospace.

Aerospace also reported that the last time scientists were able to raise the altitude of the space station before its current ongoing descent was in December 2015, and that it has been orbiting uncontrollably since at least June 2016.

Space.com wrote that “The satellite’s destruction is now being viewed as the most prolific and severe fragmentation in the course of five decades of space operations.” It resulted in a huge cloud of space debris, a threat to other satellites and to space flight. The International Space Station and those on board were also put at risk from the debris cloud.

The incident was also taken as a military threat. The Chinese regime’s space program is run by its military. The regime’s willingness to cause this kind of destruction in space without warning was seen as a threat to satellites belonging to countries around the globe, The Washington Post reported.

“It’s unfortunate that China is going down this path,” said a U.S. official after the incident, via the Post. “No one has done this in over 20 years, and in that time, international cooperation in space has come so far. It is a bustling commercial, scientific and research arena. This sort of thing is such a throwback to the Cold War.”

NTD writer Colin Fredericson contributed to this report

 

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