China is sending a secret reusable spacecraft into low-Earth orbit

China has sent a classified reusable spacecraft into orbit.

According to a report by Chinese-language state media Xinhua, a Long March 2F rocket launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center yesterday is sending a “reusable test spacecraft” into low-Earth orbit.

The test of the spacecraft includes “the technical verification of reusable and on-orbit services as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful uses of outer space,” the report said.

No photos or related operations of the launch have been released, but it is speculated that the vehicle tested is a spaceplane. The Long March 2F can carry approximately eight tons to low Earth orbit, which may indicate it is a similar size to the US Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane.

Another mysterious Chinese spacecraft was launched in September 2020 and stayed in orbit for two days before landing in China. It’s unclear if this new vehicle is the same.

China appears to be taking steps to develop its reusable spacecraft capabilities; A space “white paper” released by China’s State Council Information Office in January this year said the country will “further step up research and conduct test flights on key technologies for reusable space transportation systems.”

“Responding to the growing need for regular launches, China will develop new rocket engines, combined engines and upper stage technologies to improve its space entry and exit capabilities and make space entry and exit more efficient.” “

China is developing through the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC) also made its own spaceplane called Tengyun.

“Unlike SpaceX’s rocket recycling, the spaceplane can take off from an ordinary airport to transport spacecraft into orbit. It will bring about a revolution for future space transportation,” CASIC’s Zhang Hongwen told China Central Television in 2018.

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