The final hours for Tiangong-2 China’s space station are at hand because the 8-ton piece of hardware will fall to earth, or rather a sea, sometime within the next 20 hours or so in a managed deorbit maneuver. However, not like with its predecessor, it isn’t a mystery where this specific piece of space debris is going to fall.
Tiangong-2 is a pretty small space station that was installed into orbit in 2016 to test a lot of China’s orbital technologies; it was initially planned to stay up there for two years, however as many a well-engineered piece of space kit has achieved, it greatly exceeded its anticipated lifespan and has been operational for more than a 1000 days now.
Chinese Taikonauts have visited the station to carry out orbital refueling, test instruments, experiments, and all that kind of thing. But it’s not almost as well geared up as the International Space Station, nor as spacious — and that’s saying something — so they only stayed a month, and even that must have been fairly grueling.
The time has come, still, for Tiangong-2 to be deorbited and, naturally, destroyed within the process. The China National Space Administration indicated that the 18-meter-wide station and solar panels would mostly burn up during reentry, however, that a small number of particles could fall “in a safe area within the South Pacific,” specifying a giant area that does technically include quite a bit of New Zealand. (160-190°W long by 30-45°S lat)
They didn’t specify when precisely it might be coming down, except that it could be throughout July 19 Beijing time (it’s already morning there at the time of publishing). It should produce a visible streak; however, not anything you’ll see if you aren’t searching for it.