Space lab returns to Earth after nearly three years

  • ASEAN+
  • Sunday, 21 Jul 2019

Back home: The spacecraft re-enters the atmosphere after several orbital manoeuvres. — China Daily/Asia News Network

Beijing: China’s Tiangong II space lab made a controlled descent back into the atmosphere after a 1,036-day space journey, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

The spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere at 9.06pm Beijing time after several orbital manoeuvres following control signals from Chinese space authorities.

Much of the spacecraft burned up during reentry while a small amount of debris fell in a designated secure area in the South Pacific, the agency said in a statement, adding that the re-entry marked the successful completion of China’s space lab programme.

Zhu Zongpeng, Tiangong II’s chief designer at the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, said that although the spacecraft was still in good condition and had sufficient fuel before re-entry, scientists decided to retire it for operational and safety reasons.

The spacecraft had significantly outlived its designed life span by a year and an extended period in orbit might create hazards, Zhu said.

Therefore, the country chose to decommission it to honour its obligations as a responsible global space power, the designer added.

Tiangong II was put into orbit in September 2016 atop a Long March 2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.

More than 1,000 days into its orbit 393km above the ground, the spacecraft substantially outlived its two-year designed life span and had completed all of its assigned tasks.

During its orbital stay, Tiangong II carried out four dockings with the Shenzhou XI manned spacecraft and Tianzhou 1 cargo spaceship, enabled China to verify a series of key technologies such as midterm life support and in-orbit refuelling, and to execute multiple extended experiments, according to the agency.

It carried about 600kg of scientific payloads in 14 categories and fulfilled more than 60 scientific experiments and technological tests, gaining a great deal of achievements. — China Daily/Asia News Network

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