Video grab of 3D animation of China's Tiangong-1 space module
A 3D animation of China's Tiangong-1 space module is shown in this still image taken from a video released Sept. 28, 2011. Tiangong-1 was China's prototype space station launched in 2011. Reuters

One of China’s space stations is on track to fall out of the sky and down to Earth sometime within the next few months, the Guardian reported. The station, called the Tiangong-1, was launched in 2011 and was used for manned and unmanned missions until the China National Space Administration lost control of it.

The craft launched in 2011 and was meant for rendezvous and docking testing in space to perfect the two tasks essential to space long-term manned space exploration. It’s an 8-ton craft with a port on either end for docking. In 2013 three astronauts were on board the craft carrying out experiments and missions in space. A year later after the craft completed its two-year planned trip in space the CNSA extended its mission. A statement from the manned engineering office for the agency said that in March 2014 the craft was, “in stable and normal condition with all systems operating normally and consumable resources meeting needs of follow-up tasks.”

But it didn’t stay that way. In 2016 officials confirmed that the station was no longer in their control and that it could come crashing down to Earth sometime in the next couple of years, the Guardian reported. The agency reportedly told the United Nations that it expects the station to come back down to Earth some time between October 2017 and April 2018. When Chinese officials reported it to the UN in May the station was at an average of 349 kilometers and dropping.

The craft will likely burn up in the atmosphere, to some degree, but it’s unknown how much of it will make it through and crash land on Earth. “Most of the structural components of Tiangong-1 will be destroyed through burning during the course of its re-entry. The probability of endangering and causing damage to aviation and ground activities is very low,” said the statement. This statement was made based on calculations and analysis it said.

China also promised to closely monitor the re-entry process and to provide updates. The country will do this though “enhancing monitoring and forecasting.” The reason China has its own stations is that they aren’t allowed on the International Space Station like other countries are. This was decided in 2011 after a law was passed that prevented NASA from collaborating with the Chinese space program due to national security concerns, reported Time.

The Chinese space agency is working on establishing a moon village along with the European Space Agency however. The two are collaborating on plans that were confirmed back in April.