China's Tianzhou 5 cargo spacecraft was destroyed as scheduled on Tuesday morning as it reentered Earth's atmosphere, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
The agency said in a news release that, under ground controllers' guidance, the robotic craft flew back into Earth's atmosphere at 9:13 am. After that, most of the spaceship burned up, and a small amount of debris fell into secure areas in the South Pacific Ocean.
The Tianzhou 5 departed from the Tiangong space station on Monday afternoon and then started the atmospheric reentry process guided by ground controllers.
The vessel launched on Nov 12 from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, and docked with the Tiangong later that same day. It was tasked with refueling the space station and bringing astronauts' living and work necessities.
It was the fourth cargo ship to have linked with the Tiangong, which is now manned by three astronauts of the Shenzhou XVI mission.
On May 5, the vessel undocked from the Tiangong station and started a solo flight for experimental purposes that lasted 33 days. It reconnected with the space station in June.
In addition to resupply and refueling tasks, the cargo ship carried several cutting-edge experimental payloads to the space station, which have been working well, according to the agency.
It noted the space hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell system has been successfully demonstrated in orbit. The test results will be used for the research and development of new spacecraft fuel cells to be used in China's planned manned missions to the moon.
Another piece of advanced equipment, the broad-energy-spectrum, high-energy particle detector, has obtained a lot of scientific data in terms of charged particles, neutrons, and particle radiation effects, the agency added.
In late December, the Tianzhou 5 deployed the Macao Student Science Satellite 1, a 12-kilogram mini satellite, into orbit. The satellite has been used to help students in Macao learn about Earth imaging, radio communication and other spaceflight activities.
The Tiangong station is currently linked with the Tianzhou 6, which arrived on May 11.