In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.
Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere. With dimensions of approx. 10.4 m x 3.4 m and a weight of 8.5 tons, it can be assumed that at least parts of the space station will reach the Earth's surface.
The space observation radar TIRA of Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR in Wachtberg near Bonn in Germany.
Only a few sensors worldwide are capable of measuring and imaging space objects such as Tiangong-1 with sufficient precision to acquire high quality data for re-entry forecasts. Here, Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques uses the highly sensitive TIRA system with its 34 m parabolic antenna.
TIRA combines a ku-band imaging radar with an l-band tracking radar. In contrast to optical systems, radar systems such as TIRA offer decisive advantages: complete independence of local weather conditions, full operational capacity during the day or at night as well as a resolution that is independent of the distance of the object. TIRA is capable of imaging space objects with high geometric and radiometric resolution and can also measure their orbital path with the highest precision.
By precisely determining the orbital data of Tiangong-1 until it re-enters at the end of March/beginning of April 2018, FHR offers the German Space Situational Awareness Center valuable support in forecasting the time and place of re-entry. Regular checks are also carried out to establish whether or not Tiangong-1 is still fully intact.
Moreover, the European Space Agency ESA/ESOC in Darmstadt has commissioned Fraunhofer FHR to determine and investigate the natural rotation of Tiangong-1. This rotation greatly influences the flight characteristics of the space station and therefore also influences the time of impact.
Due to the low orbital inclination, Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere somewhere between 43°N and 43°S and therefore does not pose a danger for Germany. A more accurate point of impact can only be estimated a few days previous to the actual event as the braking effect of the atmosphere is influenced by a number of factors.
These include the natural rotation speed, the manner in which Tiangong-1 breaks up into several parts, the time of the break-up and the actual weather conditions in space. With TIRA, Fraunhofer FHR supports the Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA/ESOC with analyses and data and therefore contributes to the improvement of the re-entry forecast.
In its role as one of the leading European institutes, Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR in Wachtberg/Germany conducts extensive research in the area of high frequency and radar techniques. The institute's large-scale space observation radar TIRA possesses capabilities that are unique throughout Europe. The TIRA system primarily serves as a central experimental facility for the development, investigation and demonstration of radar techniques and algorithms for the detection and reconnaissance of Earth-orbiting objects – from active satellites to "space debris".
Dipl.-Volksw. Jens Fiege
Head of internal and external communication
Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques FHR
Fraunhoferstraße 20 | 53343 Wachtberg | Germany
Phone +49 (0)151 613 653 67 | Fax +49 (0)228 9435-627
https://www.fhr.fraunhofer.de/tiangong-images For more images and the press release
Jens Fiege | Fraunhofer-Institut für Hochfrequenzphysik und Radartechnik FHR
Structured light and nanomaterials open new ways to tailor light at the nanoscale
23.04.2018 | Academy of Finland
On the shape of the 'petal' for the dissipation curve
23.04.2018 | Lobachevsky University
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
24.04.2018 | Information Technology
24.04.2018 | Earth Sciences
24.04.2018 | Life Sciences