A space station belonging to China is poised to make a crash landing over populated parts of the Earth.

Tiangong-1 is expected to crash land in early 2018, according to the European Space Agency.

Launched in 2011, the 8.5 tonne space station went out of control in September 2016, and now experts believe they know roughly when and where it will strike the Earth.

They believe that between January and March of 2018, the station will land somewhere across Spain, Italy, Turkey, India and Saudi Arabia or the US.

Currently, it is travelling around 186 miles above the Earth at about 20,000 miles per hour.

Normally, when a station or other space object is retired, it is destroyed by forcing it to burn up in the atmosphere.

However, the Chinese have lost control of Tiangong-1, meaning that it cannot be burned up in a controlled manner, and various pieces will land across the atmosphere at different speeds.

This also means it could end up landing in a populated area.

Holger Krag, head of ESA's Space Debris Office, said: "Owing to the geometry of the station's orbit, we can already exclude the possibility that any fragments will fall over any spot further north than 43°N or further south than 43°S.

"This means that re-entry may take place over any spot on Earth between these latitudes, which includes several European countries.

"The date, time and geographic footprint of the re-entry can only be predicted with large uncertainties.

"Even shortly before re-entry, only a very large time and geographical window can be estimated."