China sends record-setting Tianzhou 5 cargo spacecraft to fiery death (video)

China's Tianzhou 5 cargo vessel has completed its tasks and met its fiery fate.

The 35-foot-long (10.6 meters) cargo spacecraft launched on Nov. 12, 2022, and docked with China's Tiangong space station just 2 hours and 7 minutes later, marking a new world record for rendezvous and docking with a space station.

The 29,760-pound (13,500 kilograms) spacecraft carried supplies for three astronauts on the Shenzhou 15 mission, experiments and materials, and propellant to keep Tiangong in its intended orbit.

Related: See latest configuration of China's Tiangong space station in stunning new video

China's Tianzhou 5 cargo spacecraft undocks from the nation's Tiangong space station on Sept. 11, 2023. (Image credit: CCTV)

Having completed its tasks, Tianzhou 5 was undocked from Tiangong early on Monday (Sept. 11), according to China's human spaceflight agency, CMSA. A controlled deorbiting over the South Pacific — an area often used by countries for deorbiting spacecraft due to its remoteness — took place Tuesday (Sept. 12), with Tianzhou 5 reentering at 0113 GMT (9:13 a.m. Beijing time), CMSA stated.

Most of the spacecraft likely burned up during its high-speed reentry into Earth's atmosphere, with some components surviving and falling into the ocean.

Tianzhou 5 was the fourth supply mission to Tiangong. In May it separated from the space station, spending 33 days in independent flight mode before re-docking with Tiangong once the Shenzhou 15 spacecraft had departed for Earth.

The Tianzhou 6 spacecraft remains docked at the three-module Tiangong orbit outpost, along with the Shenzhou 16 spacecraft.

China plans to launch Tianzhou spacecraft every eight months as part of plans to keep Tiangong constantly occupied for at least 10 years.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.