Tuesday, July 23, 2024

‘Mysterious’ Chinese Spacecraft Returns to Earth After 276 Days in Space

China’s state media has reported that an experimental Chinese spacecraft successfully returned to Earth on Monday after spending 276 days in orbit. This significant mission aimed to test China’s reusable space technologies.

The uncrewed spacecraft made its scheduled return to the Jiuquan launch center in northwest China. However, specific details regarding the spacecraft’s purpose, tested technologies, altitude reached, orbital trajectory, and even public images of the craft have not been disclosed at this time.

State media highlighted that this test signifies a noteworthy advancement in China’s research on reusable spacecraft technology, which will contribute to more convenient and cost-effective future space missions.

In a mission that remained largely secretive in 2021, a similar spacecraft, possibly of the same nature, traveled to the edge of space and returned to Earth on the same day. The landing was reported to be “horizontal” by China’s primary space contractor at that time.

Speculation among commentators on Chinese social media suggests that Beijing might be developing a spacecraft resembling the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B, an autonomous spaceplane capable of remaining in orbit for extended durations.

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