This year, in April, Tiangong-1 has fallen from orbit after the Chinese lost control over the station since March 2016. Now, in the last ten days, the other Chinese space station, Tiangong-2, orbited Earth much lower than usual, a maneuver that puzzled the scientists. However, the Chinese government is silent in this regard.
On June 13th, Tiangong-2 moved from its regular orbit at 242 miles (about 390 kilometers) above Earth to a lower one at 183 miles (295 kilometers) above our planet, as said Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard-Smithsonian astronomer, and the data shared by the US Strategic Command’s Joint Force Space Component Command.
Recently, the Chinese space station has returned to its default orbit around Earth, but too late to not ignite several speculations. Some scientists theorized that Tiangong-2 would follow on the steps of the defunct Tiangong-1, only that, this time, the Chinese will decommission their space station in a more controlled manner.
Chinese space station Tiangong-2 to follow on the steps of the defunct Tiangong-1?
Tiangong-2, a 10.4-meter large craft, was never meant to be a permanent station. It launched in 2016 and is a test lab for the devices and instruments that will be used on the more massive Tianhe Chinese space station that will propel in 2022.
Usually operating without astronauts on board, Tiangong-2, however, received the 30-day long visit of a crew of Chinese astronauts in 2017.
As regarding the station’s latest maneuvers, the experts think that the Chinese space station reached its end and that the Chinese engineers conducted the last tests needed for a controlled decommission.
“My best fit to the data is that TG-2 re-boosted at 01:17 and 02:02 UTC Jun 22nd, for a total delta-V of 56 m/s and a propellant usage of about 144 kg,” posted McDowell on Twitter.
“Possibly just testing out the space lab’s engine reliability after two years in orbit, as part of end-of-life tests?” wondered the astronomer.
However, at this moment, the Chinese government offered nothing on the puzzling Chinese space station maneuvers.