Chinese aerospace experts said that the country's first space lab will splash down under control in the Pacific Ocean, denying Western media reports that it will hit Earth this year.
"The Chinese department never said Tiangong-1 had been 'out of control,' the foreign media are reporting rumors," an anonymous aerospace expert told the Global Times.
Spacecraft that return under controlled conditions will not threaten the Earth when they fall, he said, noting that large low-Earth orbit spacecraft usually fall at a designated area in the southern Pacific.
The China Manned Space Agency announced that, from December 17 to December 24, 2017, Tiangong-1 orbited at an average altitude of 286.5 kilometers with stabilized attitude control and well-functioning performance.
On Wednesday, the Daily Mail reported that "The Tiangong-1 spacecraft has been out of control since September 2016 and experts from Aerospace Corp believe it will crash-land sometime in March."
It was not the first time that Western media reported that Tiangong-1 was out of control. "China's 8.5-ton space lab will soon crash to Earth. No one knows where it will hit," the Washington Post reported in October.
"Tiangong-1 will reach a proper speed and orbit with several breaks in space and return to the atmosphere, during which time most of its parts will be burned out, and the rest will fall in the southern Pacific," the expert said.
"No large remains nor toxic substance will be produced during the fall," he noted.
China's first lunar probe, the Chang'e-1, ended with a planned collision into the moon's surface on March 1, 2009; China's first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, left its orbit under orders from ground control in September 2017 and fell at a specific area in the southern Pacific.
Tiangong-1 was launched in September 2011 and ended its data service in March 2017, when it had "comprehensively fulfilled its historic mission," Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office, was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency.
Most parts of the space lab will burn up during re-entry, according to Wu. She added that it was unlikely to affect aviation activities or cause damage to the ground.