China’s New Experimental Spaceplane Lands After 2 Days in Orbit

China’s new experimental spaceplane which was launched Friday successfully returned to the designated landing site on September 6, Xinhua News Agency reported.

“The reusable spacecraft successfully launched by China from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center successfully returned to the scheduled landing site on September 6 after flying in orbit for 2 days,” said the report.

“The complete success of this experiment marks an important breakthrough in China’s technology research on reusable spacecraft, which will provide a more convenient and inexpensive way to and from the peaceful use of space,” the report added.

The experimental spaceplane was launched 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 at the time that the spaceplene “will carry out reusable technology verification as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful use of space” during its orbital period.

The new reusable spacecraft is thought to be comparable to United States’secretive X-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 the spaceplane successfully landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in 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.

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