Tiangong-1 fails to perform reentry in 2017

Tiangong-1 space station remaining on low Earth orbit have not performed destructive reentry in the second half of 2017 as it was planned by CNSA.

Station was launched on the top of the Long March 2F from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in 2009 and was first Chinese space station on orbit. After series of tests on 355 km x 362 km orbit it was put on higher orbit of 350 km x 370 km. In 2011 first docking with Shenzhou spacecraft was performed and in 2012 first Shenzhou with three crew members docked to Tiangong-1. Station was finally decommissioned in 2016 and its destructive reentry was planned for 2017-station should gradually reduce altitude and enter atmosphere in the end of 2017.

Unfortunately Tiangong-1 was reducing altitude much lower comparing to previous assumptions - with 4 km per every month in 2017. This resulted with delay in reentry. CNSA announced that still situation is not requiring any additional actions - Tiangong-1 should reenter in March 2018 and after burning in atmosphere some minor fragments will fall into Pacific Ocean. Still according to some sources there is possibility that some heavy fragments of Station can fall far away from planned drop zone, still possibility of fall on populated areas is doubtful.

It is not first time when large object is reentering atmosphere completely uncontrolled. Russian Salyut-7  station performed destructive reentry in 1991 - it did no result with any harm to people, although reentry was performed over populated regions of Argentina.


On picture above: track of the Tiangong-1 is still clearly visible on the pictures of the sky.