Confirmation arrived that the Chinese space laboratory Tiangong 1 has fallen back to Earth. To be precise, at about 0.16 AM UTC it was destroyed over the Pacific Ocean. At the moment there are no information about possible damage caused by its fall but it’s possible that some pieces haven’t disintegrated.
Launched on September 29, 2011, the Tiangong 1 space laboratory was built to test a number of technologies needed to develop the Chinese space program. They concern docking systems, including automatic one, and the habitat inside it with the instruments needed to perform scientific experiments.
The tests were carried out during three subsequent missions with as many Shenzhou spacecraft. In November 2011, the Shenzhou 8 mission only tested the docking with the Tiangong 1 laboratory as it was an automated spacecraft. In June 2012, the Shenzhou 9 mission was the first in which 3 astronauts, or taikonauts to use the Chinese term, spent almost a week in the laboratory.
The third and last mission in the Tiangong 1 space laboratory was the Shenzhou 10 in which, in June 2013, 3 taikonauts spent almost 12 days inside it performing a number of experiments. Some of them continued even after the laboratory was abandoned with a monitoring of the results from the Earth.
The duration of the key systems on board the Tiangong 1 laboratory was among the factors to be monitored before proceeding with its reentry into the atmosphere to be disintegrated. However, at the end of March 2016, the Chinese Space Agency revealed that telemetry data had ceased to be broadcast in the previous days.
The substance is that the orbit of the Tiangong 1 space laboratory decayed without the possibility of controlling it to limit the dangers in its destruction. A number of factors that includes the influence that can come from a solar flare made it difficult to predict exactly the day of its disintegration despite its monitoring. Eventually, luckily things went well.
Meanwhile, on September 15, 2016, the Chinese Space Agency launched another space laboratory, Tiangong 2. China keeps on developing its space program and in the coming years it’s scheduled to begin the launch of the modules of its space station.