After its first flight, a Chinese spacecraft returns to Earth

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In what China described as a major step toward creating reusable space transportation technology, a Chinese spacecraft capable of travelling to the edge of the atmosphere took off and returned to Earth on the same day.

According to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC), the country’s major space contractor, the spacecraft took off from a launch center in northwest China on Friday and completed its voyage according to “established procedures.”

The spacecraft then landed “horizontally” on Earth, according to CASC.

A spaceship capable of reaching suborbital space should be able to go up to 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The CASC did not specify the height of the spacecraft or its flight path. There were no images of the spacecraft or its flight available.

“The development of reusable space transportation technology is a significant emblem of China’s shift from a ‘large’ spacefaring nation to a ‘strong’ spacefaring one,” according to CASC.

Due to its reusability, reusable spacecraft would allow for more frequent missions and cheaper mission costs.

China launched an experimental spacecraft into orbit in September of last year using a rocket. On its low-key mission, the spacecraft returned to Earth after two days in orbit.

Chinese social media users hypothesized that Beijing is working on a spacecraft similar to the US Air Force’s X-37B, an autonomous spaceplane that can stay in orbit for lengthy periods of time before returning to Earth on its own.

It’s unclear whether China’s orbital and suborbital spacecraft, like the US Space Shuttle, had fixed wings.

Source : Reuters

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