A convenient, reusable and inexpensive spacecraft which was launched on 4th of September in China has safely landed after spending two days in orbit. According to Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency, the spaceplane is similar to the Air Force’s X-37B and can provide a “convenient and inexpensive” method of getting to and from space.
The X-37B is a spaceplane roughly a quarter the size of America’s Space Shuttle orbiters, a series of spaceplanes that were launched into orbit from rockets between 1981 and 2011, and were able to glide back to Earth and land on runways to be repaired and reused. The X37-B follows the same basic operation but is always uncrewed. The US Air Force describes the X37-B as an “experimental test program” that is being used to demonstrate reusable space technologies.
Whatever the nature of the craft, China is keen to celebrate its return as a scientific milestone. Xinhua described the news as an “important breakthrough,” while a Chinese military source told the South China Morning Post that there were “many firsts in this launch,” which they said explained the secrecy. “The spacecraft is new, the launch method is also different. That’s why we needed to make sure there is extra security,” said the source.