Tiangong 1 finally reenters Earth safely

The Chinese space station Tiangong 1 has finally landed on Earth, and its arrival took place around 8 PM ET on April Fool’s Day as estimated by experts. The spacecraft landed in the Pacific Ocean, finally putting an end to its 7-year orbit tour, and the concerns of falling over somebody’s head as it crashed in the northwest of Tahiti.

Like most debris objects making a prediction of where and when would the Tiangong 1 fall was hard for experts. However, on Sunday, trackers of the spacecraft were able to calculate and narrow down the areas in which the spacecraft was to fall back to Earth, but pinpointed locations were just mere estimates.

Tiangong 1 was in lower Earth orbit at 17,000 miles per hour, after years of causing paranoia on many people since it was announced in 2013 that the spacecraft was out of control. This was the main concern about Tiangong 1, given the fact that due to the spacecraft’s particularly heavy and dense characteristics, many parts weren’t going to disintegrate upon reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.

How did people track down Tiangong 1’s trajectory?

The Tiangong 1 space lab burned on the atmosphere and was first visible when it was 270 km ( 170 miles) above the earth before it crashed in the southern Pacific Ocean. The tracking of the space station was made with several radar systems around the world, deployed by several agencies that finally narrowed down an estimated entry window for the spacecraft.

There is an extended list of organizations that collaborated, among them NASA and the European Space Agency. Space agencies from 11 other countries worked together in order to calculate an estimate.

Experts told Space.com about the three main ways to predict the debris falling back into Earth, with one of them using radars on the ground with telescopes attached to them. This is typically used to track low Earth orbit tracking.

In order to track satellites, the U.S has developed a network of radars in the northern hemisphere for the tracking of space objects. This is where the U.S Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC) teamed up with several other agencies to set up a tracking network of Tiangong 1.

Thanks to this partnership, the Fraunhofer Institute for High-Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques near Bonn, Germany, managed to take the first picture of the Space station burning on the atmosphere as it was re-entering Earth.

Source: Space.com