Chinese space station Tiangong-2 has officially ended its space mission and the orbital research facility’s entire existence. China carried out the controlled deorbiting of its Tiangong-2 space lab into the South Pacific, the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) announced Friday. The 8.6-metric-ton Tiangong-2 de-orbited and burned as per the plan, over the South Pacific ocean Uninhabited Area at 9:06 a.m.
Eastern using its own propulsion, following an engine burn 10 a.m. July 18 to lower the spacecraft’s perigee. On July, CMSEO stated that it would end the Tiangong-2 mission July 19 Beijing time, by keeping with an announcement on September 2018 that the space lab would be deliberately deorbited this year.
The maneuver follows the high profile and uncontrolled re-entry of Tiangong-1 in April 2018, it has lost contact and control of the experimental space lab in 2016. Tiangong-2 is a more enhanced version of the Tiangong-1 space lab that was launched in 2011. Both the space labs were designed as steppingstones for developing and verifying technologies for larger 20-metric-ton modules for the planned Chinese Space Station (CSS). In this matter, a long-term ambition was laid out in 1992.
Moreover, Tiangong was launched in 2016 September to test advanced life support and refueling and resupply capabilities crucial to maintaining an inhabited space station in low Earth orbit. The 10.4-meter-long spacecraft hosted two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong. They remained on the space station for 33-days at Shenzhou-11. It also means that China has carried out the longest human spaceflight mission.
The mission was followed by the uncrewed Tianzhou-1 cargo mission, launched in April 2017, it tested faster rendezvous and docking procedures, refueling in microgravity and further experiments. However, with the end of the Tiangong-2 China has now entered in a period without a spacecraft being capable of hosting human spaceflight missions. The country has planned to launch ‘Tianhe’ core module of the CSS in 2018, but the failure of second Long March 5 rocket in July 2017 has led to delay of the test launch of the Long March 5B. After that a variant designed for carrying the space station modules into low Earth orbit.
A company’s office with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation told that in January state-run Xinhua News Agency conducted a mission involving a dress rehearsal and a non-flight model of the rocket and the CSS core module, it would be carried out at Wenchang at the end of 2019.
According to the plans released by China, the 60-100-metric-ton Chinese Space Station will consist of a core module and two experiment modules. It is expected to be completed by 2022, plus it would be capable of hosting three astronauts for long durations and up to six during crew turnover. Furthermore, it will be joined by a co-orbiting Hubble-class space telescope that can dock for propellant supply, maintenance, and repairs.