A failed Chinese space station will fall to Earth later than expected due to changes in projected solar activity, predicted the Space Debris Office of the European Space Agency (ESA) in Germany.
An updated ESA forecast released today (March 30) said the 8.5-tonne space laboratory will fall to Earth later on April 1. This is because the activity of the Sun is weaker than expected, the ESA said] The orbit of Tiangong-1 now takes the station very close to the earth's atmosphere. When the sun is more active, charged particles of the solar wind hit the Earth's atmosphere. These particles carry the gases of the earth further into space and increase the gas density at higher altitudes. These gases, in turn, affect the resistance that Tiangong-1
The stronger the resistance, the faster Tiangong-1 will fall. However, as the activity of the sun is weaker than predicted, the atmosphere did not rise so much. Tiangong-1 will therefore have less drag and slower than expected, ESA said.
"A High-speed beam of particles from the Sun that was expected to reach Earth and affect the planet's geomagnetic field actually has no effect and calmer space weather around Earth and its atmosphere is now expected in the coming days, "said ESA officials in the forecast.
"This means that the density of the upper atmosphere through which Tiangong-1 moves was not as predicted (which would have required the spacecraft to pull down earlier), and so the ESA Space Debris Office has adjusted the predicted decay rate . "
The ESA emphasized that the reentry window is still variable and uncertain. When the school bus space station falls, it will fall below its current orbit inclination somewhere between 43 degrees north and 43 degrees south latitudes. This trail covers many populated parts of the world, including the United States.