Tiangong-1 was China’s first prototype space station. It orbited Earth from September 2011 to April 2018, serving as both a manned laboratory and an experimental test bed to demonstrate orbital rendezvous and docking capabilities. It was part of China’s efforts to build a manned space station by 2022, but stopped working in March 2016.

Tiangong1 was about 34 feet long by 11 feet wide (10.4 by 3.4 meters), and it weighed more than 9 tons (8 metric tons). The space lab consisted of two main parts: an “experimental module” that housed visiting astronauts and a “resource module” that accommodated Tiangong-1’s solar-energy and propulsion systems.

The craft launched without anyone aboard on Sept. 29, 2011, to an orbit about 217 miles (350 kilometers) above Earth. That’s slightly lower than the orbit of the much larger International Space Station, whose average altitude is 250 miles (400 km).

 

Mission Background

  • Tiangong-1 is the first space station built and launched by China.
  • It was designed to be a manned lab as well as an experiment/demonstration for the larger, multiple-module Tiangong station.
  • The spacecraft was launched aboard a Long March 2F/G rocket on 2011 September 30 UTC.
  • There are 2 modules that compose Tiangong-1: A habitable experimental module and a resources module.
  • It has a habitable volume of 15 cubic meters.
  • Tiangong-1 is equipped with 2 sleep stations for astronauts.
  • The first Chinese orbital docking occurred between Tiangong-1 and an unmanned Shenzhou spacecraft on November 2nd 2011
  • 2 manned missions were completed to visit Tiangong-1: Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10.

Tiangong-1 met a fiery end in Earth’s atmosphere today (April 1), breaking apart and burning up in the skies over the southern Pacific Ocean at about 8:16 p.m. EDT (0016 April 2 GMT), according to the U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command (JFSCC).

 

Tiangong-1 is not the biggest spacecraft ever to fall from the sky. That distinction goes to the 140-tonSoviet/Russian space station Mir, which was guided to a controlled destruction over the Pacific Ocean in March 2001.