Chinese spacecraft launched mystery object into space before returning to Earth
by Ilya Tsukanov
Moscow (Sputnik) Sep 11, 2020
The People's Republic successfully launched a reusable spacecraft into space atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert last Friday, with Chinese media reporting the experimental spacecraft's successful return to Earth on Sunday.
The mysterious Chinese reusable spacecraft which made a trip into space last week launched an unknown object into orbit before returning to Earth, SpaceNews.com has reported.
According to the outlet, the object was picked up by US space surveillance, and given the designation NORAD ID 46395 (2020-063G COSPAR ID). The object is said to be orbiting in a similar orbit pattern and angle as the spacecraft before its deorbiting, and was reportedly released from the craft two orbits before its return to Earth.
China has not released any information about the mystery object, with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and local media giving little information about the reusable spacecraft itself, with no images, videos, or details about its characteristics provided, prompting Western space observers to suggest it may be an experimental fixed-wing space plane of some kind.
In a brief report on the spacecraft's successful return to Earth on Sunday, Xinhua described the flight as an "important breakthrough in reusable spacecraft research," and said that it will help in future efforts "to offer convenient and low-cost round-trip transport for the peaceful use of space."
SpaceNews.com contributor Andrew Jones speculated about the nature of the spacecraft, pointing to the Chinese space agency's previous launch of a small monitoring satellite known as 'Banxing' ('Companion Satellite') craft from the crewed Shenzhou 7 spacecraft in 2008, and to China's testing of a new-generation capsule releasing an inflatable reentry and descent technology (IRDT) module in May of this year.
SpaceFlightNow.com contributor Stephen Clark believes the mystery object may have been a service module, power and propulsion package or sub-satellite of some kind.
Last week, an unnamed military source told the South China Morning Post that the mystery spacecraft itself may have been a Boeing X-37B-style spaceplane, with the latter bearing similarities to and borrowing design concepts from the old US Space Shuttle design, and Soviet experiments in the creation of small, reusable space planes in the 1970s and 1980s.
China's reusable spacecraft returns to Earth after 2 days
Beijing (Sputnik) Sep 07, 2020
The Chinese reusable experimental spaceship has successfully returned to Earth having spent two days in the orbit, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported on Sunday. The reusable spaceship was launched this past Friday on a Long March 2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert. While little has so far been known about the reusable capsule, Xinhua said the experiment was successful, which marks a milestone in China's quest to master reusable spacecrafts. A ... read more
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