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Tianzhou 2 returns to Earth

By ZHAO LEI | | Updated: 2022-03-31 22:19
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China's Tianzhou 2 cargo spaceship fell back to Earth on Thursday afternoon with most of its body burnt up during the reentry process, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

The agency said in a statement the robotic craft started to enter the atmosphere around 6:40 pm under the ground control and the extreme heat caused by air friction dismantled and destroyed most of the ship. A few pieces of debris fell into secure areas in the southern Pacific Ocean.

The country's second cargo spaceship, Tianzhou 2 was launched on May 29 last year by a Long March 7 carrier rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province. It was tasked with carrying 6.8 tons of supplies for the country's Tiangong space station, including 2 tons of propellant, more than 160 packages of supplies as well as two extravehicular suits for astronauts to perform spacewalks.

During its flight with Tiangong, Tianzhou 2 refueled the station and was involved with some in-orbit tests and scientific experiments.

It undocked with the station on Sunday to wait for ground controllers to manipulate it back to Earth.

Tianzhou 1, China's first cargo spacecraft, was launched at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province in April 2017. It carried out several docking and in-orbit refueling maneuvers with a Chinese space laboratory in low-Earth orbit from April to September that year, making China the third nation capable of in-orbit refueling after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

Each Taizhou cargo spaceship has two parts-a cargo cabin and a propulsion section. Such vehicles are 10.6 meters long and 3.35 meters wide.

It has a liftoff weight of 13.5 metric tons and can transport up to 6.9 tons of supplies to the space station, according to designers at the China Academy of Space Technology.

Lei Jianyu, a chief structural engineer, said Tianzhou is the world's best space cargo ship when it comes to carrying capacity-before it, no cargo vehicle could transport as much as 6.9 tons of materials to space.

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