back to article China's first space station to – ahem – de-orbit in late March

Predictions are firming up for when China's Tiangong-1 spacecraft will make its final re-entry-crash-and-burn. The Chinese space station was launched in 2011 and had a two-year operational lifetime. Originally slated to make its return to Earth in 2013, its lifetime was extended to 2016. Loss of telemetry effectively ended …

  1. Long John Brass Silver badge
    Coat

    So its all gone a bit...

    Pete Tong?

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Flame

    Skylab 2.0 ?

    If so, I hope the Chinese pay their littering fine a bit quicker than the yanks did.

    http://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/australia/australia-once-fined-nasa-400-for-littering.aspx

  3. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Even if I would be in the right place at the right time the weather would make sure I couldn't see a thing. It always does.

  4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    The other big firework display

    Falcon heavy static test fire will be (delayed again?) at 21:00 UTC tonight.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: The other big firework display

      An optimistic upvote. As I hope it's fireworks in the "working, great attempt" way. Though even SpaceX are expecting this one to URD*. Butt hey will learn a lot from it either way.

      *Unscheduled rapid deconstruction.

      1. AndyS

        Re: The other big firework display

        > Though even SpaceX are expecting this one to URD*. Butt hey will learn a lot from it either way.

        What?! You seriously think SpaceX are expecting this to fail? They have lower confidence than usual, and a failure (RUD, Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly, is the usual acronym) is possible, but saying they expect it is a stretch.

        Also, But. Nobody likes finding random butts on their screen.

        1. handleoclast

          Re: The other big firework display

          Nobody likes finding random butts on their screen.

          A lot of people who use PornHub would disagree with you.

        2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

          Re: The other big firework display

          "But they expect" Sorry, quite a lot of typos today. :D Thanks for the "RUD" correction.

          It was mainly Elon saying he expects it to explode on the pad. But his job is mainly expectation management for investors etc. So aiming high internally, but not getting people too invested on unproven designs just yet.

          I am awaiting the big 3 triple landing scene that may come some time this or next year!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coming home

    "Since Tiaingong-1's weight is 8,500kg and it measures 10.5m by 3.4m, there's a chance that some debris may make it to Earth."

    I'm pretty sure it will all make it to Earth, one way or another. Where else can it go?

    1. David Knapman

      Re: Coming home

      Generally, the bits that have vaporised are no longer classified as debris.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Coming home

      Swindon.

      1. Lord Kipper III

        Re: Coming home

        That's a trifle unfair. Whilst there are undoubtedly parts of Swindon that would be significantly improved by a direct strike from a falling space station (the Brunel Shopping Centre being one such place) there are some lovely places, one of which possibly could be the Intel offices which will be needed intact to deal with the impacts of Meltdown and Spectre with UK punters.

        1. GreggS

          Re: Coming home

          I think the spectre of a burning up satellite landing near their offices would mean they'd have a bigger meltdown problem to deal with.

          1. PNGuinn
            Holmes

            Re: Coming home

            "I think the spectre of a burning up satellite landing near their offices would mean they'd have a bigger meltdown problem to deal with."

            IYAM it might make the buggers a little more careful with their own quality control.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Coming home

          Swindon is somewhat north of 42.7N...

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Coming home

            That's what Swindon wants you to think.

            1. rmason Silver badge

              Re: Coming home

              Swindon isn't real.It's all part of the conspiracy.

              Something to do with the earth being flat, because of chemtrails, obama and vaccines

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Coming home

                "Swindon isn't real.It's all part of the conspiracy."

                Swindon is real. You're thinking of Slough.

                1. AndrueC Silver badge
                  Joke

                  Re: Coming home

                  Swindon is real. You're thinking of Slough.

                  Anyone thinking of Slough probably needs to seek medical advice.

                  1. Len Goddard

                    Re: Coming home

                    Slough. Didn't Betjeman write a poem about this?

                    Come friendly deorbiting Chinese space station and fall on Slough! It isn't fit for humans now,

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Coming home

                    "Anyone thinking of Slough probably needs to seek medical advice."

                    Indeed, Slough is so awful that the local Comp. was in special measures till they had the bright idea of renaming it Eton.

              2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: Coming home

                Swindon isn't real.

                Oh come on - there are not enough drugs in all the world to power an imagination that would come up with Swindon!

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Coming home

                  > "Oh come on - there are not enough drugs in all the world to power an imagination that would come up with Swindon!"

                  As an ignorant Yank I was curious about all the hubbub over Swindon, so I skimmed the Wikipedia entry and remain mystified. Just what is it about that place that generates so much Sturm und Drang among the El Reg readers? I must know!

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Coming home

                    https://www.ilivehere.co.uk/swindon.html

                    Not just the register, (also includes obligatory Slough references)

                    https://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/other_subjects/2386504-Moving-to-SWINDON

                    Only Redeeming feature, (I say redeeming, I probably should say this is the only interesting thing in Swindon and it's a roundabout)

                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Roundabout_(Swindon)

                  2. PNGuinn
                    Boffin

                    Re: Coming home

                    No, Big John, Console yourself. it's not because you are ignorant, it's just because you are, shall we say, Left Pondian.

                    There are some things about English, and being English, that are beyond the understanding of lesser minds.

                    Certain places have, shall we say, special significance for us. Like Neasden, or Mornington Crescent.

                    Just accept it. we have.

                  3. Lord Kipper III

                    Re: Coming home

                    Sheer jealousy mainly because they don't live there but of course there is Swindon's epic Magic Roundabout (oh just Google it!) which is nearly unique in the UK (and would absolutely terrify most American drivers who freak at the prospect of a normal roundabout).

                    Disclaimer, in don't live in Swindon but live sufficiently close to appreciate it from a suitable distance.

                2. Esme

                  Re: Coming home

                  If it hits Swindon, just so long as it doesn't destroy the statue of Lola Vavoom, all's well..

          2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            Re: Coming home

            Swindon is somewhat north of 42.7N...

            Most of the time yes. But when people are not watching who knows what it does?

            1. Lord Kipper III

              Re: Coming home

              It was certainly north of the M4 earlier today as I was there.

          3. PNGuinn
            Go

            Re: Coming home

            "Swindon is somewhat north of 42.7N..."

            We can dream, can't we?

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Coming home

        Swindon

        Oi!

        (I would concede that it does have a somewhat tenuous link to reality. But at least it's not Gloucester..)

        1. phuzz Silver badge
          Windows

          Re: Coming home

          Now someone's knocking Gloucester? Hang about.

          Ok, it would probably be a much better looking city if they'd not knocked down all the old half timbered houses and replaced them with concrete shit in the 60's, but at least it's not Swindon.

          1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Coming home

            At least if it's heading towards Milton Keynes then Superman will intervene.

      3. PNGuinn
        Mushroom

        Re: Coming home @ac

        Nah.

        Slough.

    3. cray74

      Re: Coming home

      I'm pretty sure it will all make it to Earth, one way or another. Where else can it go?

      Since you asked...

      Given that:

      1) Tiaingong-1 is made of a variety of materials, including polymers. The material that's vaporized will generally be converted to oxides. In the case of polymers, that's mostly carbon dioxide and the horribly dangerous dihydrogen monoxide. Those oxides will disperse into Earth's atmosphere, while other oxides (like aluminum oxide) and debris will continue to Earth's surface. And,

      2) Earth's escape velocity is sufficiently high to retain most of its atmosphere over geological timescales, unlike Mars, but there is ongoing loss of light elements, particularly hydrogen. (Earth is currently losing about 3kg of hydrogen per second from its atmosphere.) And,

      3) Water is mildly susceptible to photolysis (sp?) from high energy UV above the ozone layer, freeing hydrogen to the exosphere, then

      ...some of Tiaingong-1 will escape into space after vaporization. A quick back-of-the-envelop calculation making unsubstantiated estimates of Tiaingong-1's polymeric mass fraction concludes several bajillionths** of a gram will escape Earth into space.

      **My 5-year old niece assures me this is a valid measurement for small quantities.

      1. PNGuinn
        Boffin

        Re: Coming home @cray74

        +1 for noting the extreme toxicity of dihydrogen monoxide.

        I notice however that your detailed calculation suggests that you would expect that 33.33333333 percent approximately of all expotential letters would escape the earth's atmosphere.

        Shirly that exceeds a mere several bajillionths** of a gram?

        ** perhaps you were meaning to use elReg units rather than deprecated obsolete ones?

    4. Reliance
      Alert

      Re: Coming home

      According to the map, it could land on Manhattan, possibly Ground Zero. Which would then become Ground Zero-Zero.

  6. teknopaul Silver badge

    per the piccy it seems to coast over Spain

    The sky is falling on our heads! Any amount of it hit earth in a heavily populated area and its going to do damage.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: per the piccy it seems to coast over Spain

      Surely not! After all, if things falling from a great height could do damage, then Lester and the SPB would *never* have been given permission to launch, and return, LOHAN to Spain.

      Oh, wait...

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: per the piccy it seems to coast over Spain

      Yep! Before the end of the month I am going to dig my old crash helmet out.

      I don't suppose there's an app for satellite debris?

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Re: per the piccy it seems to coast over Spain

        I don't suppose there's an app for satellite debris?

        Maybe, but: https://xkcd.com/937/

    3. Pedigree-Pete
      Mushroom

      Re: per the piccy it seems to coast over Spain

      Genuine question. Shirly they'd still have some fuel on board to adjust it's de-orbit and ultimate landing zone. They did that with SkyLab didn't they??PP

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    What's the latest on ISS deorbiting?

    I haven't heard of the latest end-of-line.

  8. LewisRage

    Reports suggesting that there are still crew on board...

    They've been named as

    - Captain Sum Ting Wong

    - Wi Tu Lo

    - Ho Lee Fuk

    - Bang Ding Ow

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmclgO6w0C0

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      They've been named as.....

      Please....the 20th century called sir. It would like it's 'humour' back.

      1. DropBear Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: They've been named as.....

        Unlikely. The PC Brigade keeps hogging all the lines 24/7.

  9. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Total

    Inability

    To

    Support

    Usual

    Periapsis

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    North vs South

    If it hits the 42.7S side there is a lot more ocean for it to land in, but it could be nasty for the New Zealanders

  11. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Memories of Skylab coming down in '79.

    And ManicMiner's Skylab Landing Bay...

  12. Seán

    Murican serfs

    What's with the sneery tone of the article. The Chinese have the ability to get people into orbit something America and the other WASP remnant nations can no longer manage.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Murican serfs

      "The Chinese have the ability to get people into orbit something America and the other WASP remnant nations can no longer manage."

      It turns out that getting people into orbit wasn't really all that useful. It hasn't proven to be a good first step on the way to somewhere else, the research that could be done was rather limited, and far too many hard to replace people died in the process. The Chinese are simply repeating the learning process of the West and the Soviet Union.

      For vaguely related reasons we are no longer developing quadruple compound steam engines (and gasoline and Diesel engine development is, I think, already winding down).

      Meanwhile the US has robots on Mars, which if you stop to think about it is a truly amazing achievement.

      1. Just Enough

        Re: Murican serfs

        You have a rather naive idea of why military powers might want people in orbit. It's not about it being a first step to somewhere else.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Murican serfs

          It's not about it being a first step to somewhere else.

          Indeed. Space stations make fine orbital anvil deliveries.. Albeit somewhat expensive and hard to control ones..

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Murican serfs

          "You have a rather naive idea of why military powers might want people in orbit."

          Really? When the world's military is trying to get people out of military aircraft for numerous reasons?

          A space station is incredibly fragile for human life. If you could detonate even something like a BUK warhead reasonably close, you could kill everybody not in a pressure suit and some of the ones who were, and using pressure suits is really difficult. You really don't need to get very much payload up there to take out a human occupied space station.

          1. Just Enough

            Re: Murican serfs

            "Really? When the world's military is trying to get people out of military aircraft for numerous reasons?"

            Military aircraft spend most of their time on the ground, where they are serviced by people.

            Satellites don't come down when they need fixed, they have to be repaired in orbit.

      2. Agamemnon

        Re: Murican serfs

        "Nuclear Powered" Robot.

        Can't omit that part.

  13. David Roberts
    Alert

    Interesting track

    Seems to pass over some major flight paths for carriers such as Emirates and Malasia.

  14. Dr. G. Freeman
    Joke

    If it doesn't land within 45 minutes, do we get it free ?

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Next Amazon delivery setup, orbital warehouses dropping capsules with whatever you ordered.

      The step after that, they drop meals which cook using the heat of re-entry.

      The step after that, deliver is slowed down to add recipies which are simmered for a long time to the menu

      Finally, install titanium rods in the warehouses, hold the world to ransom.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Finally, install titanium rods in the warehouses, hold the world to ransom.

        Jeff - is that you?

        The time to beware is when they start shipping white cats up to orbit. After all, no evil villan is allowed to be onscreen without one.

      2. Morrie Wyatt
        Mushroom

        Jeph Jacques beat them to it.

        " Next Amazon delivery setup, orbital warehouses dropping capsules with whatever you ordered.

        The step after that, they drop meals which cook using the heat of re-entry."

        http://www.questionablecontent.net/view.php?comic=3046

        (Start at 3042 for the back story. Or better still, start at 1 for the full experience.)

        1. Thomas Duffin IV

          Re: Jeph Jacques beat them to it.

          That's the worst comic strip I've ever had the misfortune to read

  15. FIA

    Well done

    Yay! Well done China. Double the predicted lifespan is quite impressive.

    (We seem to cheer whenever NASA does something that goes well past it's designed lifespan; only seems fair!)

    1. Pedigree-Pete
      Pint

      Re: Well done China......

      and without them poor old Mark Watney would be Martian dust now......oh, it wasn't a documentary. PP

      >>because, Friday.

  16. drewsup

    anyone know

    What salvage rights exist here? If you lose control of a spacecraft and someone else flies up and fixes it, who can claim ownership? Seems a waste for a 5 year old future segment of a private space port to go to waste...

    1. Arthur the cat Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: anyone know

      What salvage rights exist here? If you lose control of a spacecraft and someone else flies up and fixes it, who can claim ownership?

      To the best of my knowledge international law on space says satellites are always the property of the country that launched them (as in the sense of paying for the launch, not whose rocket it was), even if they've lost control. The owners are also responsible for any damage caused when/if it re-enters.

      That's theoretical of course, it's not like there's a lot of case law on satellite theft.

      1. FIA

        Re: anyone know

        That's theoretical of course, it's not like there's a lot of case law on satellite theft.

        Lets be honest, law just boils down to who's got the biggest stick. :)

    2. Robert Moore
      Coat

      Re: anyone know

      What salvage rights exist here? If you lose control of a spacecraft and someone else flies up and fixes it, who can claim ownership?

      There was a great documentary on this exact subject.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078681/?ref_=nv_sr_1

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Telemetry failure

    Were they using a Samsung Note 7?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Telemetry failure

      No.... it would have caught fire, then exploded.

      They might have been using Apple maps though...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err, any chance it will come down on North Korea ?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Well, yes, but very small

      As the area of the earth's surface covered by Tiangong's orbit is about 341.3E6 km^2, with Nork covering a mere 120540 km^2 , or just 0.035% of that, you can see it's not very likely it'll hit there.

  19. spold Bronze badge

    That's the trouble with them China spacestations, Tiangong one minute Tiangone the next

  20. Nunyabiznes Silver badge

    Crashing and burning

    I didn't mind the burning part, but I was a little concerned with the crashing part until I realized I'm north of the highest predicted debris path. Nyah, nyah, nyah!

    (j/k of course - I don't wish fiery space debris death on anyone. Well, most anyone.)

  21. Captain Obvious
    Mushroom

    I wonder why

    Thy don't just shoot it down with a missile like they did with the satellite? I obviously have not thought through all ramifications but I am not a rocket scientist :)

  22. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    It does seem odd

    The usual pattern is for later entrants to learn from the failures of earlier ones. Of course the hype for Skylab was...hype, but it still looks really bad that this is an uncontrolled reentry. Yes, hauling fuel up there just to bring it back down would be expensive, but this could (and therefore should) have been a triump.

  23. Blade

    Hope it doesn't do a Skylab 2.0

    Looking at it's flight path, it does fly over the middle of Australia, and where I live appear to be in the potential landing zone.

    Think I'll have to dig out the hard hat that day, just to be safe of course.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But the Gravity of the situation

    Just have to hope there isn't a Kessler Cascade any time soon :-)

    (tinfoil hat icon)

  25. Qwertius

    Chinese Space Station made in Orient.

    But now Chinese Space Station is velly velly lost.

    China scientists think it must bee Dis-Oriented.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the flip side

    If it powers back up and hurtles out of the Solar System at the last possible minute, we know the warp drive works.

    cough Slingshot /cough

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