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Tiangong-2 Space Laboratory
Model of the Chinese Tiangong Shenzhou.jpg
A display model of Tiangong-1 docked to the Shenzhou spacecraft.
Station statistics
COSPAR ID 2016-057A
SATCAT no. 41765
Crew2 (from Shenzhou 11, 19 October 2016 – 17 November 2016)
Launch 15 September 2016, 22:04:09 (UTC+8)
Launch pad Jiuquan LA-4/SLS-1
Reentry 19 July 2019
Mass 8,600 kg (19,000 lb)
Length10.4 m (34 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Pressurised volume 14 m3 (490 cu ft) [1]
Periapsis altitude 369.65 km (229.69 mi)
Apoapsis altitude 378.4 km (235.1 mi)
Orbital inclination 42.79°
Orbital speed7.68 km/s (4.77 mi/s)
Orbital period 92 minutes
Days occupied26 days 11.3 hours
Statistics as of 2016-09-22 00:00:00 UTC
References: [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]
Simplified Chinese 天宫二号
Traditional Chinese 天宮二號
Literal meaningCelestial Palace-2 or Heavenly Palace-2
Space Laboratory
Simplified Chinese 空间实验室
Traditional Chinese 空間實驗室
Literal meaningSpace Laboratory

Tiangong-2 (Chinese : ; pinyin :Tiāngōng èrhào; lit. : 'Celestial Palace 2') was a Chinese space laboratory and part of the Project 921-2 space station program. Tiangong-2 was launched on 15 September 2016. [7] It was deorbited as planned on 19 July 2019. [8]


Tiangong-2 was neither designed nor planned to be a permanent orbital station; rather, it is intended as a testbed for key technologies that will be used in the Chinese large modular space station, which is planned for launch between 2019 and 2022. [9]


The China Manned Space Engineering Office published a brief description of Tiangong-2 and its successor Tiangong-3 in 2008, indicating that at least two crewed spaceships would be launched to dock with Tiangong-2. [2]

Tiangong-2 was originally expected to be launched by the China National Space Agency by 2015 [10] to replace the prototype module Tiangong-1, which was launched in September 2011. [11] In March 2011, Chinese officials stated that Tiangong-2 was scheduled to be launched by 2015. [10] [12] An uncrewed cargo spacecraft will dock with the station, [10] allowing for resupply. [13]

In September 2014, its launch was postponed to September 2016. [14] Plans for visits in October 2016 by the crewed mission Shenzhou 11 and the uncrewed resupply craft Tianzhou were made public. [15] The station was successfully launched from Jiuquan aboard a Long March 2F rocket on 15 September 2016. [16] Shenzhou 11 successfully docked with Tiangong-2 on 19 October 2016. [17]

Aboard the Shenzhou 11, launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert, were Commander Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong who formed the inaugural crew for the space laboratory. [18] It was China's first crewed mission for more than three years.

During the 30 days the two astronauts were aboard Tiangong-2, they conducted a number of scientific and technical experiments on the physiological effects of weightlessness, tests on human-machine collaboration on in-orbit maintenance technology and released an accompanying satellite successfully. Accompanying photography and near-distance fly-by observation were also carried out. They collected abundant data and made some achievements in programs of gamma-ray burst polarimeter, space cold atomic clock and preparation of new materials. [19]

Shenzhou 11 separated from the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab on 17 November, reentry module landed successfully at the expected site in central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at about 13:59 Beijing Time. [19]

On 22 April 2017, the cargo vessel Tianzhou-1 successfully docked with Tiangong-2 marking the first successful docking and refuelling with the orbiting space laboratory. [20] It subsequently performed a second docking and refueling on 15 June 2017. On 12 September 2017, Tianzhou-1 performed the third and final docking and refuelling with Tiangong-2, with what is termed a fast docking which took 6.5 hours, rather than 2 days, to complete. [21]

In June 2018, Tiangong-2 performed orbital maneuvers lowering the orbit to 292 × 297 kilometers, likely in preparation for deorbiting. It has since returned to its usual orbit. [22] [23]

In July 2019 the China Manned Space Engineering Office announced that it was planning to deorbit Tiangong-2 in the near future, but no specific date was given. [24] The station subsequently made a controlled reentry on 19 July and burned up over the South Pacific Ocean. [25]


The dimensions of Tiangong-2 were:

Further developments

Tiānhé-1 is the core module of a planned modular space station. The core module and its other parts are to be launched between 2020 and 2022.

See also

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