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China launches mysterious reusable ‘test spacecraft’ to Earth orbit

China's Shenzhou 14 crewed mission launches atop a Long March 2F rocket on June 4, 2022.

AN EXTENDED March 2F rocket launches China’s Shenzhou 14 crewed mission on June 4, 2022. AN EXTENDED March 2F launched a mysterious reusable “test spacecraft” on Aug. 4.(Image credit: CCTV+)

For the next time in 2 yrs, China has launched a classified reusable vehicle on a mystery mission to Earth orbit.

A Long March 2F rocket carrying a “test spacecraft” lifted faraway from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on Thursday (Aug. 4; Aug. 5 Beijing time), China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

“The test spacecraft will undoubtedly be in orbit for a period before time for the scheduled landing site in China, where reusable and in-orbit service technology verification will undoubtedly be completed as planned to supply tech support team for the peaceful usage of space,” Xinhua wrote (opens in new tab) (in Chinese; translation by Google).

Related: The most recent news about China’s space program

That’s about all we realize; Xinhua’s update is merely two paragraphs long and no more detail. However the mystery vehicle is regarded as a robotic space plane, perhaps one roughly exactly the same size because the U.S. Space Force’s X-37B, in line with the Long March 2F’s considerable payload capacity, SpaceNews reported (opens in new tab).

China also launched a reusable test spacecraft in September 2020, under an identical cloud of secrecy. That vehicle which might or may possibly not be exactly the same one which lifted off on Thursday stayed aloft for just two days and released a little payload in orbit before decreasing for a landing in China, SpaceNews noted.

For comparison, the X-37B space plane has been orbiting Earth for a lot more than 800 days on its latest mystery mission, the sixth for the X-37B program. The Space Force is considered to have two of the 29-foot-long (8.8 meters), Boeing-built space planes in its fleet.

The Jiuquan launch was section of an exceptionally busy day in spaceflight. Thursday featured six rocket launches, you start with Rocket Lab’s lofting of a spy satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office at 1 a.m. EDT (0500 GMT).

Also on Thursday, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launched a missile-warning satellite for the area Force; Blue Origin sent six visitors to suborbital space; China launched the TECIS 1 Earth-observation satellite; and South Korea’s Danuri moon probe lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Mike Wall may be the writer of “ON THE MARKET (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book concerning the seek out alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Mike Wall

Michael Wall is really a Senior Space Writer (opens in new tab)and joined the team in 2010.He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been recognized to dabble in the area art beat.His book concerning the seek out alien life, “ON THE MARKET,” was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before learning to be a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He’s got a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To discover what his latest project is, it is possible to follow Michael on Twitter.

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