China launches secret reusable spacecraft to low-Earth orbit

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Beijing, (Asian independent) China has launched a classified reusable vehicle on a secret mission to low-Earth orbit, media reports said.

A Long March 2F rocket carrying a “test spacecraft” lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert on Friday, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

“The test spacecraft will be in orbit for a period of time before returning to the scheduled landing site in China, during which reusable and in-orbit service technology verification will be carried out as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful use of space,” Xinhua news agency reported.

The craft’s test includes “technical verification of reusable and on-orbit services as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful use of space”.

According to a SpaceNews report, the mystery vehicle is thought to be a robotic space plane, perhaps one roughly the same size as the US Space Force’s X-37B, based on the Long March 2F’s considerable payload capacity.

In September 2020, China had launched a reusable test spacecraft in a similar manner. It stayed aloft for two days and released a small payload in orbit before coming down for a landing in China, SpaceNews noted.

A “white paper” released by China’s State Council Information Office in January this year stated that the country would, “continue to strengthen research into key technologies for reusable space transport systems, and conduct test flights accordingly.”

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