Beijing: An experimental Chinese spacecraft landed on Earth on Monday after spending 276 days in space completing a landmark mission to test the country’s reusable space technology.
Chinese state media reported that the mission marked a key milestone in the country’s push into reusable spacecraft technology research, and “provides technological support for the peaceful use of space,” CGTN reported.
The uncrewed spacecraft returned to the Jiuquan launch center in northwest China on Monday as scheduled, according to state media. Commentators on Chinese social media have speculated that Beijing has been developing a spacecraft like the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B, an autonomous spaceplane that can remain in orbit for years.
No details were given on what the spacecraft was, what technologies were tested, how high it flew, and where its orbits had taken it since its launch in early August 2022. Images of the craft have also yet to be released to the public.
The test marks an “important” breakthrough in China’s research into reusable spacecraft technology that will provide a more convenient and inexpensive way to mount future space missions, state media reported.
In 2021, what may have been a similar spacecraft flew to the edge of space and returned to Earth on the same day in a mission that was also kept largely under wraps. It landed on Earth “horizontally,” according to China’s main space contractor at the time.
The uncrewed and reusable X-37B returned to Earth in November last year in its sixth and latest mission, after more than 900 days in orbit.