The Chinese Tianzhou 1 resupply and refueling freighter re-entered Earth’s atmosphere Friday, burning up as designed after a five-month mission demonstrating servicing techniques for China’s future space station.
The nearly 35-foot-long (10.6-meter) robotic cargo carrier fired its thrusters two times to slow down and drop out of orbit, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.
The ground-commanded deorbit burns guided the Tianzhou 1 spacecraft into the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean at around 1000 GMT (6 a.m. EDT; 6 p.m. Beijing time) Friday, Chinese space officials said.
Tianzhou 1 is the first in a series of vessels designed to deliver cargo, food, clothing, water and fuel to crews on China’s future space station, an orbiting complex scheduled for completion by around 2022.
The demonstration mission conducted three dockings with China’s Tiangong 2 space lab, a precursor of the planned space station, and successfully transferred liquid fuel and oxidizer into Tiangong 2’s propellant tank three times.
Tianzhou 1 undocked from Tiangong 2 for the final time Sept. 16.
Since its launch April 20 on a Long March 7 rocket, Tianzhou 1 tested technologies and servicing procedures China says will be required on the future space station.
Designed to accommodate up to 14,300 pounds (6,500 kilograms) of payloads, the Tianzhou spacecraft is similar in purpose to cargo freighters that fly to the International Space Station, such as the Russian Progress supply ship and the commercial Cygnus and Dragon carriers built by Orbital ATK and SpaceX.