A representation of the Tiangong-1 space station (Image: CSME)

A Chinese space station has smashed into Earth’s atmosphere and met its fiery demise.

The Tiangong-2 burned up over the Pacific Ocean at just after 2pm UK time.

Its instruments were still working properly, so the descent is believed to have been stable and controlled.

The China Manned Space Agency said a small amount of debris plunged into a ‘safe sea area’ in the South Pacific.

In a statement before the satellite dived into the atmosphere, the China Manned Space Engineering Office wrote: ‘China’s Tiangong-2 space lab is planned to be controlled to leave orbit and re-enter the atmosphere on July 19

‘China has carried out a series of scientific and technological space experiments and tested the in-orbit propellant refuelling technology on Tiangong-2.

‘All the experiments in the space lab have been completed. The spacecraft and the instruments on it are functioning well.

‘Preparations for the controlled re-entry into the atmosphere of Tiangong-2 are proceeding steadily as planned.

‘China will timely report the information about the spacecraft after it re-enters the atmosphere to fulfil its international obligations.’

A TV grab of the docking of China’s manned spacecraft Shenzhou-11, right, and Tiangong-2
Source: Rex Features

The spacecraft was launched on September 15, 2016, and has been in orbit for more than 1,000 days – much longer than its original 2-year lifespan.

It’s more than 10 metres wide and weighs 8.6 tonnes, with a wingspan of 18.4 metres when its solar panels are unfurled.

Elon Musk was very pleased about the satellite’s death dive.

He said: ‘This is actually a good thing btw. China is making amazing progress in space, rapidly iterating on rocket & space station technology. Great respect.’

Last year, the original Tiangong burned up in the atmosphere – but it was out of control by the time it met its doom.


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