The unmanned craft spent two days in orbit after being launched on Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite tv for pc Launch Middle in northwest China and landed Sunday at its “scheduled touchdown web site,” the Xinhua news agency reported.

“The profitable flight marked the nation’s necessary breakthrough in reusable spacecraft analysis and is anticipated to supply handy and low-cost spherical journey transport for the peaceable use of the area,” mentioned the transient three paragraph report.

China has not offered any footage of the spacecraft nor given any particulars of its dimension or configuration.

It did say it was launched aboard a Lengthy March-2F provider rocket, the 14th mission for the rocket which has been used for Chinese language manned missions and to ship its area laboratory into orbit.

A Xinhua story three years ago mentioned China would launch a reusable spacecraft this yr, saying it might be totally different from “conventional one-off spacecraft” and “fly into the sky like an plane.”

The Chinese language report drew widespread hypothesis that Beijing had launched one thing akin to the USA Air Power’s X-37B Orbital Take a look at Automobile (OTV).

The X-37B has been in orbit since late Could following its launch on its sixth mission, based on an Air Power truth sheet. It’s described as a smaller, unmanned model of the area shuttles, which NASA retired in 2011.

“The unmanned OTV is designed for vertical launch to low Earth orbit altitudes the place it may carry out lengthy length area know-how experimentation and testing,” the Air Power says. “Upon command from the bottom, the OTV autonomously re-enters the ambiance, descends, and lands horizontally on a runway.”

The X-37B is used to check a variety of applied sciences from avionics to propulsion to superior supplies for spaceflight, the Air Power says.

However every of the X-37Bs missions has been extremely secretive, resulting in public hypothesis that the planes may very well be used for spying exercise or testing area weapons.

After the OTV accomplished a 780-day mission final October, the Air Power mentioned it performed experiments for the Air Power Analysis Laboratory (AFRL). The AFRL develops “warfighting applied sciences” for the air, area and our on-line world sectors, based on its web site — as an illustration, it is growing laser weapons that finally could also be mounted onto plane.

Whereas China was tight-lipped about its reusable spacecraft over the weekend, the nation has been accelerating its space program at a fast tempo over the previous decade.

Buoyed by billions of {dollars} in authorities funding, Beijing has fired area labs and satellites into orbit and even change into the primary nation to ship an unmanned rover to the far aspect of the moon.

Beijing is working towards sending astronauts to the moon and, finally, Mars.

In July, China launched its first unmanned mission to the Red Planet. The Tianwen-1 probe will orbit the planet earlier than touchdown a rover on the floor, with the hope that it may collect necessary details about the Martian soil, geological construction, setting, ambiance, and seek for indicators of water.

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