China's space lab Tiangong-1 is falling to Earth this week

Space authorities said that the space lab should burn up in the atmosphere.

China's space lab Tiangong-1 is falling to Earth this week
Representational image

Beijing: China's first experimental space lab is expected to come crashing back to Earth between March 31 and April 4.

Space authorities said that the space lab should burn up in the atmosphere.

Tiangong-1 has officially stopped sending data and entered its final phase of life on March 16, a statement issued on Monday by the China Manned Space Engineering Office said.

The Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, is orbiting at an average height of about 216.2 kms, the announcement noted, but did not disclose any re-entry location.

A Chinese aerospace expert told state-run 'Global Times' said it is impossible to name the exact re-entry location at this stage.

The approximate re-entry location cannot be decided until the last two hours before it starts to fall based on international precedents, he said.

According to Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and other agency estimates, the space lab will likely enter the atmosphere between March 31 and April 4. The China Manned Space website will supply daily updates.

The Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace 1” was launched into orbit in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China’s ambitious space program, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

The heavenly vehicle successfully docked with the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and undertook a series of experiments.

The lab completed its main missions following Shenzhou-10's return in June 2013.

During its extended flight, Tiangong-1 conducted experiments in space technology, space-earth remote sensing and space environment exploration, the office said.

China plans to finalise its space station to rival Mir, the Russian space station currently in orbit by 2022.

(With PTI inputs)