China’s Experimental Space Lab Ends Data Service


China’s first experimental space lab Tiangong-1, which helped the country’s scientists understand management of a space station, has terminated its data service after it completed its main tasks during an operational orbit of 1,630 days, it was announced today.

The functions of the space laboratory and target orbiter have been disabled after an extended service period of about two and a half years, although it remains in designed orbit, according to the manned space engineering office. Tiangong-1 was launched in September 2011 with a design life of two years.

It had successfully docked with the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and undertaken a series of experiments, contributing to the nation’s space programme, the office said. The lab had completed its main missions following Shenzhou-10’s return to earth in June 2013.

During its extended flight, Tiangong-1 conducted experiments on space technology, space-earth remote sensing and space environment exploration, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Tiangong-1 was invaluable to scientists understanding of the construction and management of a space station, the office said.

The aim of China’s multi-billion-dollar space programme is to put a permanent manned space station into service around 2022, the report said, adding that by around 2020, the country’s first orbiting space station should be completed.

The flight orbit of the space lab, which will descend gradually in the coming months, is under continued and close monitoring, according to the office, which said the orbiter will burn up in the atmosphere eventually.