Tiangong-1

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Tiangong-1
天宫一号目标飞行器
Model of the Chinese Tiangong Shenzhou.jpg
Model of Tiangong space lab with attached Shenzhou crewed spacecraft.
Tiangong 1 drawing (cropped).png
Plan diagram of Tiangong-1 with solar panels extended
Station statistics
COSPAR ID 2011-053A
SATCAT no. 37820
Launch 29 September 2011,
13:16:03.507 UTC [1] [2]
Carrier rocket Long March 2F/G
Launch pad Jiuquan, LA-4/SLS-1
Reentry 2 April 2018, 00:16 UTC [3] [4]
2 April 2018 00:15 UTC (China Manned Space Engineering Office) [5]
Mission statusDeorbited [4]
Mass 8,506 kg (18,753 lb) [6]
Length10.4 m (34 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Pressurised volume 15 m3 (530 cu ft) [7]
Days occupied20 days, 18.5 hours
(Hatch open to hatch closed) [8]
Map showing the probability of re-entry of Tiangong 1 by latitude. Latitudes shaded red were most likely; latitudes shaded green were least likely. Areas outside possible re-entry latitudes are not pictured. Tiangong-1 Reentry Map.png
Map showing the probability of re-entry of Tiangong 1 by latitude. Latitudes shaded red were most likely; latitudes shaded green were least likely. Areas outside possible re-entry latitudes are not pictured.

The orbit of Tiangong-1 decayed gradually, and the space laboratory was predicted to be destroyed upon re-entry into Earth's atmosphere. [73] [74] [75]

At the request of China and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), led by the European Space Agency (ESA), conducted an international campaign to monitor the re-entry of Tiangong-1. ESA's Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany hosted and administered the campaign, with participation from other space agencies and organizations including the China National Space Administration (CNSA), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), and Roscosmos of Russia. [76] The IADC predicted that Tiangong-1 would break up during re-entry, but that parts of the station would survive and fall to the Earth's surface, potentially falling across an area thousands of kilometres long and tens of kilometres wide. However, because most of the re-entry area was ocean or uninhabited land, the IADC stated that the odds of a person being hit by falling debris to be "10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning". [72] The IADC's final prediction before re-entry was that Tiangong-1 would re-enter at around 01:00 UTC on 2 April 2018, plus or minus 2 hours, falling somewhere on Earth between 42.8° North and 42.8° South latitudes, [77] [78] with the most likely re-entry sites being at the north and south extremes of that range. This is because an inclined orbit has the smallest north-south speed at the extreme latitudes, and the greatest north-south speed near the equator. [72]

Independently, the non-profit Aerospace Corporation's Center for Orbital and Re-entry Debris Studies (CORDS) predicted that Tiangong-1 would most likely re-enter the atmosphere around 00:30 UTC on 2 April 2018, plus or minus 1.7 hours. CORDS scientists also predicted that it would re-enter somewhere between the 42.7° North and 42.7° South latitudes, a range that covered two-thirds of the Earth's surface, with a high likelihood of an ocean landing of whatever did not burn up during re-entry. [79] They predicted that if any parts of the station survived re-entry, the small amount of debris would impact the ground over an area a few hundred square kilometers in size. [80] The final prediction of likely areas for debris impact covered southern South America, Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia. [80] [81] However, even in those high-probability areas, they still estimated the odds of a specific person being hit by debris to be "about one million times smaller than the odds of winning the Powerball jackpot". [82]

Tiangong-1 reentered the Earth's atmosphere at approximately 00:16 UTC on 2 April 2018 over the South Pacific Ocean at 24°30′S151°06′W / 24.5°S 151.1°W / -24.5; -151.1 . [4] [80] According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, the station mostly burnt up upon re-entry. [83] A fisherman from the nearby island of Maupiti was able to witness the event. [84] It was the largest spacecraft to re-enter the atmosphere since Fobos-Grunt in January 2012. [72] This was about 3,600 km (1,900 nmi) from Point Nemo, a location often used as a spacecraft cemetery to crash defunct satellites. [85] As the spacecraft made an uncontrolled reentry, this was an unintended coincidence.

Tiangong-1
Simplified Chinese 天宫一号
Traditional Chinese 天宮一號
Literal meaningCelestial Palace-1 or Heavenly Palace-1

Program developments

Tiangong-1 was designed as a test bed for key technologies later used on another test station called Tiangong-2, which was launched on 15 September 2016. [86] Both experimental space stations were short-lived and meant to test technologies and systems for the Tiangong space station, which is planned to be assembled from 2021 to 2022. [87]

The design of Tianzhou, an automated cargo spacecraft intended to resupply the Tiangong space station, is based on Tiangong-1. [15] [88]

See also

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