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Tiangong-2 Space Laboratory
Tianzhou-1 and Tiangong-2 rendering.jpg
A rendering of Tianzhou 1 (left) docked to Tiangong-2.
Station statistics
COSPAR ID2016-057A
SATCAT no.41765
Crew2 (from Shenzhou 11)
19 October – 17 November 2016
Launch15 September 2016,
14:04:09 UTC
Carrier rocketLong March 2F/G
Launch padJiuquan, LA-4 / SLS-1
Reentry19 July 2019
Mass8,600 kg (19,000 lb)
Length10.4 m (34 ft)
Diameter3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Pressurised volume14 m3 (490 cu ft)
Periapsis altitude369.65 km (229.69 mi)
Apoapsis altitude378.4 km (235.1 mi)
Orbital inclination42.79°
Orbital speed7.68 km/s (4.77 mi/s)
Orbital period92.0 minutes
Days occupied26 days 11.3 hours
Statistics as of 22 September 2016
References: [1][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 was intended as a testbed for key technologies used in the Tiangong station (Chinese large modular space station) of which the first module launched on 29 April 2021[9] and the remaining modules of which launched in 2022.[10]


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 (CNSA) by 2015 [11] to replace the prototype module Tiangong-1, which was launched in September 2011.[12] In March 2011, Chinese officials stated that Tiangong-2 was scheduled to be launched by 2015.[11][13] An uncrewed cargo spacecraft will dock with the station,[11] allowing for resupply.[14]

In September 2014, its launch was postponed to September 2016.[15] Plans for visits in October 2016 by the crewed mission Shenzhou 11 and the uncrewed resupply craft Tianzhou were made public.[16] The station was successfully launched from Jiuquan aboard a Long March 2F rocket on 15 September 2016.[17] Shenzhou 11 (Only Expedition) successfully docked with Tiangong-2 on 19 October 2016.[18]

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.[19] 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.[20]

Shenzhou 11 separated from the orbiting Tiangong-2 space laboratory on 17 November 2016, reentry module landed successfully at the expected site in central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at about 13:59 Beijing Time.[20]

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.[21] 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.[22]

In June 2018, Tiangong-2 performed orbital maneuvers lowering the orbit to 292 × 297 kilometers, likely in preparation for deorbiting. It then returned to its usual orbit.[23][24]

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.[25] The station subsequently made a controlled reentry on 19 July 2019 and burned up over the South Pacific Ocean.[26]


The dimensions of Tiangong-2 were:

  • Crew size: 2, with 30 days of life support resources.[13] The crew (from Shenzhou 11, October 2016) consists of two astronauts.
  • Length: 10.4 m (34 ft).[2]
  • Maximum diameter: 4.2 m (14 ft).[2]
  • Mass: 8,600 kg (19,000 lb).[4]

Further developments[edit]

Tianhe is the core module of the Chinese space station. The core module and its other parts launched between 2021 and 2022.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tiangong 2". China Space Report. 15 May 2016. Retrieved 4 October 2022.
  2. ^ a b c d Branigan, Tania; Sample, Ian (26 April 2011). "China unveils rival to International Space Station". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 April 2011. China often chooses poetic names for its space projects, such as Chang'e – after the moon goddess – for its lunar probes; its rocket series, however, is named Long March, in tribute to communist history. The space station project is currently referred to as Tiangong, or "heavenly palace".
  3. ^ huaxia, ed. (16 September 2016). "Tiangong-2 takes China one step closer to space station". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on 16 September 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Tiangong-2 space lab may exceed 5 years service life: expert". Xinhua News Agency. 16 September 2016. Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  5. ^ Hunt, Katie; Bloom, Deborah (15 September 2016). "China launches Tiangong-2 space lab". CNN News. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Space-Track.Org API Access". space-track.org. 22 September 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  7. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (20 June 2016). "China prepares assembly of its space station, invites collaboration through U.N." SpaceNews.
  8. ^ "China set to carry out controlled deorbiting of Tiangong-2 space lab". 12 July 2019.
  9. ^ "China launches first module of new space station". BBC News. 29 April 2021. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  10. ^ China to begin construction of manned space station in 2019 Reuters 28 April 2017
  11. ^ a b c "China to launch Tiangong-2 and cargo spacecraft in 2015". GB Times. 13 June 2013. Archived from the original on 18 March 2016. Retrieved 16 June 2013.
  12. ^ "Tiangong-1 launch betrays China's earthly ambitions" BBC News 29 September 2011 Retrieved 21 November 2011
  13. ^ a b David, Leonard (11 March 2011). "China Details Ambitious Space Station Goals". SPACE.com. Retrieved 9 March 2011. China is ready to carry out a multiphase construction program that leads to the large space station around 2020. As a prelude to building that facility, China is set to loft the Tiangong-1 module this year as a platform to help master key rendezvous and docking technologies.
  14. ^ "China manned spaceflight program" The Space Review 15 October 2009 Retrieved 21 November 2011
  15. ^ Morris Jones (11 September 2014). "China's Space Station is Still on Track". SpaceDaily.
  16. ^ "China to launch second space lab in 2016: official". SpaceDaily. AFP. 10 September 2014.
  17. ^ "China successfully launches Tiangong-2 space lab". CCTV News. 15 September 2016.
  18. ^ "China's Shenzhou-11 successfully docks with Tiangong-2 spacelab". CCTV America. 18 October 2016. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  19. ^ Clark, Stuart (20 October 2016). "Two crewed space stations now orbiting Earth". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  20. ^ a b "SCIO briefing on China's Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11 manned space mission". China.org.cn. 19 November 2016. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  21. ^ "Tiangong-2: China's first cargo spacecraft docks with orbiting space lab". The Guardian. 22 April 2017. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  22. ^ "China's Tianzhou-1 cargo craft and Tiangong-2 space laboratory perform final orbital docking". GB Times. 12 September 2017. Archived from the original on 15 August 2018. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
  23. ^ Andrew Jones (20 June 2018). "China appears to be preparing to deorbit its Tiangong 2 space lab". SpaceNews.
  24. ^ Michelle Starr (25 June 2018). "China's Space Station Got Weirdly Close to Earth For a Few Days and the Government Isn't Talking". Science Alert.
  25. ^ Jones, Andrew (12 July 2019). "China set to carry out controlled deorbiting of Tiangong-2 space lab". SpaceNews. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  26. ^ Liptak, Andrew (20 July 2019). "China has deorbited its experimental space station". The Verge. Retrieved 21 July 2019.

External links[edit]