China launched a top-secret "reusable test spacecraft" into space on September 4.
The spacecraft, named Chongfu Shiyong Shiyan Hangtian Qi (CSSHQ), was launched on a Long March 2F rocket at the country’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia, and returned safely back down to Earth after spending two days in orbit.
China has used the Long March-2F to launch 14 missions since 1999, and to launch crewed missions since 2003.
Reports stated that the spacecraft appeared to have released an unknown object before making its return journey.
The government run news agency Xinhua, released only a few details about this secretive Chinese military program. They stated that if all goes according to plan, CSSHQ will be China's first reusable spacecraft.
Reusable parts are intended to allow companies and countries to potentially lower the cost of a launch, seeing that a single rocket launch can cost tens of millions of dollars.
NASA's Space Shuttle was the first partially reusable launch vehicle. But, it failed to make the launch process any cheaper than expendable launch systems.
According to the report given by China's government, the spacecraft is designed to carry astronauts to and from space. "The successful flight marked the country's important breakthrough in reusable spacecraft research, and is expected to offer convenient and low-cost round trip transport for the peaceful use of the space."
Jonathan McDowell, astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and satellite tracker, shared on Twitter that the spacecraft may share similarities to the top secret X-37B spy plane built by the US Air Force.
However, he didn't rule out that it could be a SpaceX "Dragon-style capsule with a parachute landing in the Taklamakan [desert] somewhere."
Unfortunately not much information has been provided regarding the space program and the future thereof.
At the Jiuquan cosmodrome in northwestern China, preparations are underway for the launch of the Long March 2F rocket. Perhaps a prototype of a reusable spacecraft, an analogue of the Boeing X-37(OTV) or Space Rider, will be tested. #China #Asia #Space #news #rocket pic.twitter.com/0ljOduTChG— Smith Gaski (@Smit_Gaski) March 4, 2020