October 21, 2019
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Chinese space lab Tiangong 2 to fall to Earth in controlled reentry

Beijing, Jul 19 (efe-epa).- Chinese space lab Tiangong 2 is set to return to Earth on Friday through a controlled reentry into the atmosphere after spending over two years in its orbit, authorities said.

"The spacecraft, in normal and stable condition, was operating in an elliptical orbit with the perigee at 190 km and the apogee at 370 km by 5:30 pm on Friday,” the China Manned Space Engineering Agency said in a statement, according to state news agency Xinhua.

In a message to the United Nations, China said a small quantity of the craft’s debris was expected to fall in South Pacific’s safe area far from land.

"After the reentry of Tiangong-2 into the atmosphere, China will timely release information and inform relevant situations in an open way, and firmly fulfill the international obligations of a major responsible country,” the CMSEA said.

Tiangong-2 was launched into orbit on Sept. 15, 2016. It was designed to operate for at least two years, although in the end it functioned for more than 1,000 days.

With a total launch mass of 8.6 tons and a total payload of 600 kilograms, the lab carried out a series of pioneering projects such as operating a cold atomic clock in space and a system that allowed rice and arabidopsis thaliana (a flower) plants to reach maturity outside Earth for the first time.

During its time in orbit, Tiangong-2 carried out successful rendezvous and docking with Chinese manned spaceship Shenzou and the cargo spacecraft Tianzhou, apart from carrying out in-orbit propellant refueling.

Its predecessor Tiangong-1 had raised concerns among space experts around the world over fears that upon de-orbiting it might crash in inhabited areas.

Despite these concerns, it entered Earth's atmosphere on Apr. 2, 2018 and disintegrated almost completely when it flew over the southern Pacific Ocean after almost two years of unmanned orbiting.

The Tiangong program seeks the establishment of a permanent Chinese space station, and its next phase will be the launch by 2020-2022 of a third module to orbit for at least a decade. EFE-EPA

vec/ia/ssk

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