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China's Tiangong-1 Space Lab Expected to Fall to Earth in 2 to 3 Weeks

Artist's Illustration of Tiangong-1
An artist's Illustration of China's Tiangong-1 space lab, which is expected to fall back to Earth soon. (Image credit: CMSA)

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany, has issued a new update on the expected re-entry of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab.

The new forecast, which was issued March 15, predicts that the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 will fall back to Earth between March 30 and April 6, though it stresses that this is a rough estimate. 

Re-entry of the Chinese hardware will take place anywhere between 43 degrees north latitude and 43 degrees south latitude — a huge swath that most of the world's population calls home. [China's Tiangong-1 Space Lab in Pictures]

"At no time will a precise time/location prediction from ESA be possible," Space Debris Office officials wrote in the update.

Tiangong-1, the first space station built by China, launched in late September 2011. The first Chinese orbital docking occurred between Tiangong-1 and an unpiloted Shenzhou spacecraft on Nov. 2, 2011. Two piloted missions visited Tiangong-1 as well: Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10, in June 2012 and June 2013, respectively.

Leonard David is author of "Mars: Our Future on the Red Planet," published by National Geographic. The book is a companion to the National Geographic Channel series "Mars." A longtime writer for, David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. This version of the story published on

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