China’s Space Station Wasn’t the End. Three More Satellites Expected to Crash to Earth This Week
Tiangong 1, China’s fallen space station, is now in pieces somewhere on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, but it’s hardly the last spacecraft that will plunge to earth. In fact, by the end of the week, three more are expected to re-enter the atmosphere.
Two pieces of space junk from Kazakhstan and one from India are headed home, part of the surprisingly regular amount of cosmic debris that falls to earth each year. The first could occur as early as tomorrow evening, according to Satview.org.
PSLV R/B, an Indian spacecraft that was launched Nov. 4, 2013, is expected to reenter the atmosphere at approximately 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday. That will be followed Wednesday at 7:30 p,m, ET by FLOCK 2E-3, a Kazakh spacecraft that has been orbiting earth since Nov. 19, 1998. Finally, Friday morning at approximately 10:24 a.m. ET, FLOCK 2E’-6, another Kazakh orbital will fall to earth.
Like Tiangong 1, there’s no reason to spent a lot of time worrying about these incoming spacecraft. Odds are they’ll burn up in the atmosphere—and even if pieces survive, the odds of being hit are fewer than one in 300 trillion.
Hollywood can make incoming space junk seem glamorous, but it’s actually so routine it’s boring. Between 200 to 400 space objects reenter the atmosphere each year, a number that’s only going to increase as companies send up more satellites.
To date, just one person has been hit with falling debris from any of them: Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma, who was hit by a six-inch piece of rocket in 1997. She walked away from the incident with no injuries.