Chinese Space Station Tiangong-1 Comes Down in Pacific Ocean

Monday, April 2, 2018 - 15:37

China’s Tiangong-1 space station has come down in the Pacific Ocean.

The spacecraft re-entered the earth’s atmosphere at 0015 GMT on Monday over the South Pacific and mostly burnt up, state news agency Xinhua said.

The China Manned Space Engineering Office said: “Through monitoring and analysis by Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and related agencies, Tiangong 1 re-entered the atmosphere at about 8.15am, 2 April, Beijing time (1.15am GMT). The re-entry falling area is located in the central region of the South Pacific.

“Most of the devices were ablated during the re-entry process.” Ablated, in spacecraft terms, means burned up through atmospheric friction.

The 10.4-metre long (34.1-foot) Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace 1, was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbit experiments as part of China’s ambitious space program, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

The European Space Agency had indicated earlier that Tiangong-1 was likely to break up over water, which covers most of the planet’s surface.

In December 2017, China eventually made a statement to the UN predicting that Tiangong-1 would come down by late March 2018.

Within a year after Tiangong had stopped working, China launched a second space lab, Tiangong-2, whose aim is to test capabilities for long-term human presence in space, in anticipation of a permanent space station to be launched in 2023.

The paper said this may leave China as the only country keeping people in orbit if the International Space Station is retired in 2024. In that case “China will take a dominant position in conducting space experiments”, said Jiao Weixin, a space science professor at Peking University.

Reuters, AFP and PA contributed to this report

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