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Tiangong-2 Space Laboratory
Model of the Chinese Tiangong Shenzhou.jpg
A display model of Tiangong-2 docked to the Shenzhou spacecraft.
Station statistics
COSPAR ID 2016-057A
Crew 2 (from Shenzhou 11, October 2016)
Launch 15 September 2016, 22:04:09 (UTC+8)
Launch pad Jiuquan LA-4/SLS-1
Mass 8.6 t (9.5 tons)
Length 10.4 m (34 ft)
Diameter 3.35 m (11.0 ft)
Perigee 369.65 km (229.69 mi)
Apogee 378.4 km (235.1 mi)
Orbital inclination 42.79°
Orbital speed 7.68 km/s (4.77 mi/s)
Orbital period 92 minutes
Statistics as of 2016-09-22 00:00:00 UTC
References: [1][2][3][4][5]
Simplified Chinese 天宫二号
Traditional Chinese 天宮二號
Literal meaning Heavenly Palace-2 or Sky Palace-2
Space Laboratory
Simplified Chinese 空间实验室
Traditional Chinese 空間實驗室
Literal meaning Space Laboratory

Tiangong-2 (Chinese: ; pinyin: Tiāngōng èrhào; literally: "Heavenly Palace 2") is a Chinese space laboratory and part of the Project 921-2 space station program. Tiangong-2 was launched on 15 September 2016, 22:04:09 (UTC+8).[6]

Tiangong-2 is 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 Chinese large modular space station, which is planned for launch around 2019–2022.[7]


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.[1]

Tiangong-2 was originally expected to be launched by the China National Space Agency by 2015[8] to replace the prototype module Tiangong-1, which was launched in September 2011.[9] In March 2011, Chinese officials stated that Tiangong-2 was scheduled to be launched by 2015,[8][10] following the deorbit of Tiangong-1. An uncrewed cargo spacecraft will dock with the station,[8] allowing for resupply.[11]

In September 2014, its launch was postponed to September 2016.[12] Plans for visits in October 2016 by the crewed mission Shenzhou 11 and the uncrewed resupply craft Tianzhou were made public.[13] The station was successfully launched from Jiuquan aboard a Long March 2F rocket on 15 September 2016.[14] Shenzhou 11 successfully docked with Tiangong-2 on 19 October 2016.[15]

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.[16] It was China's first manned 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.[17]

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

On April 22, 2017, the cargo vessel Tianzhou-1 successfully docked with Tiangong-2 marking the first successful docking and refuelling with the orbiting space laboratory.[18] It subsequently performed a second docking and refueling on June 15, 2017. On September 12, 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.[19]


The dimensions of Tiangong-2 are:

  • Crew size: 2, with 30 days of life support resources.[10] The crew (from Shenzhou 11, October 2016) consists of two astronauts.
  • Length: 10.4 metres (34 ft).[1]
  • Maximum diameter: 4.2 metres (14 ft).[1]
  • Mass: 8,600 kilograms (19,000 lb).[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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". 
  2. ^ huaxia, ed. (2016-09-16). "Tiangong-2 takes China one step closer to space station". Xinhua. Retrieved 2016-09-16. 
  3. ^ a b huaxia, ed. (2016-09-16). "Tiangong-2 space lab may exceed 5 years service life: expert". Xinhua. Retrieved 2016-09-16. 
  4. ^ Hunt, Katie; Bloom, Deborah (15 September 2016). "China launches Tiangong-2 space lab". CNN News. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  5. ^ "Space-Track.Org API Access". space-track.org. 2016-09-22. Archived from the original on 2016-09-22. Retrieved 2016-09-15. 
  6. ^ de Selding, Peter B. (20 June 2016). "China prepares assembly of its space station, invites collaboration through U.N". Space News. 
  7. ^ China to begin construction of manned space station in 2019 Reuters April 28, 2017
  8. ^ a b c "China to launch Tiangong-2 and cargo spacecraft in 2015". GB Times. 13 June 2013. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  9. ^ "Tiangong-1 launch betrays China's earthly ambitions". BBC. 29 September 2011. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ "China manned spaceflight program" (PDF). The Space Review. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 21 November 2011.
  12. ^ Morris Jones (11 September 2014). "China's Space Station is Still On Track". SpaceDaily. 
  13. ^ AFP (10 September 2014). "China to launch second space lab in 2016: official". SpaceDaily. 
  14. ^ "China successfully launches Tiangong-2 space lab". CCTV News. 15 September 2016. 
  15. ^ "China's Shenzhou-11 successfully docks with Tiangong-2 spacelab". CCTV America. Retrieved 2016-10-19. 
  16. ^ Clark, Stuart (2016-10-20). "Two crewed space stations now orbiting Earth". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-10-22. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ "Tiangong-2: China's first cargo spacecraft docks with orbiting space lab". The Guardian. 22 April 2017. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  19. ^ "China's Tianzhou-1 cargo craft and Tiangong-2 space lab perform final orbital docking". GBTimes. 12 September 2017. Retrieved 15 September 2017.