China Launches Experimental Spaceplane

China launched a new experimental spaceplane abroad a Long March 2F launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China’s Gobi Desert on Sept. 4.

Further details of the launch and images were not released in contrast to China’s other high-profile space missions.

Chinese media reported that “”the test spacecraft will be in orbit for a period of time before returning to the domestic scheduled landing site”. The report added that the spaceplene “will carry out reusable technology verification as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful use of space” during this period.

The new reusable spacecraft is thought to be comparable to United States’secretiveX-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV)unmanned spaceplane. The two operational X-37B spaceplanes have completed five orbital missions and have spent a combined 2,865 days (7.85 years) in space.

The fifth mission of X-37B (OTV-5) was completed in October last year when thespaceplane successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facilityin Florida. During OTV-5, designated USA-277 in orbit, the X-37B conducted on-orbit experiments for 780 days breaking its own record by being in orbit for more than two years. The spaceplane was originally designed for an on-orbit duration of 270 days.

On May 17,X-37B lifted off for its sixth mission (OTV-6)abroad a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.