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China’s space station ‘out of control’ and on crash course to Earth

Natural’ re-entry to atmosphere means it is almost impossible to know where debris will land

China’s first space station will meet a fiery end next year when the 8.5-tonne module comes crashing down to Earth, amid concerns authorities have lost control of the craft.

The Tiangong-1 space station was launched in September 2011 and currently orbits Earth at an altitude of 230 miles (370km).

But in July, amateur astronomers suggested China had “lost control” of the satellite, after Chinese media reported the country’s space agency had struggled to get in contact with it.

Officials have now confirmed that after four and a half years in orbit, Tiangong-1 (meaning Heavenly Palace) is expected to plummet to Earth in late 2017.

Speaking at a satellite launch for the space station’s successor in the Gobi Desert in northern China, officials from China’s manned space programme said the craft had ended its service in March this year having “comprehensively fulfilled its historical mission”.

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