China’s Reusable Spacecraft Blasts Off for First Time in Secretive Launch

Katie Ramirez
September 5, 2020

A report from Chinese state media's Xinhua said the launch was successful and that a Long March 2F rocket sent the spacecraft into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, but it provided no information about exact launch time or what technologies the spacecraft will test. "It will test reusable technology during their flight, providing technical support for the peaceful use of space", Xinhua said in the article.

A beefier version of the Chinese Long March rocket - the 2F - carried the suspected space plane to orbit Friday.

"Closure notifications from airspace issued Thursday offered the first sign of an impending launch", wrote Space News.

The China National Space Administration said its spacecraft, including an orbiter, lander and rover, was performing well on its way to Mars.

China claims to have successfully launched an experimental spaceplane, which would mark a monumental breakthrough for the nation's space program, reports The Wall Street Journal. "An obvious higher-than-usual degree of safety surrounding the mission additionally prevented bystander pictures showing on social media". On test flights, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suborbital flies into space (at least by U.S. military definition). The US Air Force X-373B spacecraft is now conducting its sixth mission in orbit in the United States. Details from a Chinese source reveal that the L9ng March 2F space vehicle deployed this spacecraft into space at an unidentified time.

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The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) explained in 2017 that it was organizing space navigation exploit to inform the development of a spaceplane. He added that the remodeling of the space vehicle would enable it to host a spacecraft. A goal of 2030 for developing a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) spaceplane was also noted.

Also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle, the unmanned spacecraft takes off vertically and returns to the Earth horizontally on a runway landing.

Chen Hongbo of CASC admitted that the reusable spacecraft could host both the payloads and crew.

Hypersonic spacecraft like X-37B have the potential to be used as weapons that could take out enemy satellites, space stations, ground targets or missiles and would be very hard to detect or intercept.

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), another giant state-owned enterprise, is operating its own spacecraft called Tengyun.

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