Space lab to finish its service in July
Tiangong-2, China’s space lab orbiting Earth, will be safely removed from orbit under manual control after July, senior space engineers said on Wednesday.
Launched on Sept 15, 2016, Tiangong-2 has fulfilled all its planned missions within its designed two-year life span. It will focus on conducting experiments and testing new space applications that can benefit society during its remaining days, said Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office.
These benefits include providing valuable geological data for research and disaster relief, and enhancing local economies in Ningxia and Yunnan provinces, home to many sectors of the Chinese space industry, he said.
Much like Tiangong-1, its predecessor, plans call for Tiangong-2 to descend on a guided track through the atmosphere, where most of its structure will burn up, and the remnants will fall safely into the ocean. Tiangong-1 was taken out of orbit on April 2, and it blazed through the atmosphere before falling into the southern Pacific Ocean.
Tiangong-2 has served as a symbol of national pride and science education, Lin said. One notable achievement onboard Tiangong-2 is the cold atomic clock, the world’s first and most accurate timepiece, which would take 300 billion years to lose one second.
“All of Tiangong-2’s payload modules are functioning properly and in good condition,” Lin said.
On Sept 20, the management committee for Tiangongdecided the space lab would finish its service in July, and then would be taken out of orbit under manual control, he added.
Zhu Zongpeng, chief engineer of Tiangong-2, said the space lab has many built-in fail-safe and self-processing systems that can automatically deal with emergencies and ensure its safe descent.