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A mysterious Chinese spacecraft returns to Earth after 276 days

A mysterious Chinese spacecraft returns to Earth after 276 days

Chinese state media reported that an experimental Chinese spacecraft returned to Earth on Monday, after staying in orbit for 276 days, completing a historic mission to test reusable technologies in space.

The media said that the “unmanned” spacecraft returned Monday, as scheduled, to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

No details were provided about what the spacecraft was, the technologies tested, and how high it had flown since its launch in early August 2022. No photos of the spacecraft have been released to the public.

State media said the tests by the spacecraft marked an “important” breakthrough in China’s research into reusable spacecraft technology, which will provide a convenient and inexpensive method for future space missions.

In 2021, what may be a similar spacecraft blasted off to the edge of space and returned to Earth the same day, on a mission that was also largely classified. The spacecraft landed “horizontally,” according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the prime contractor for China’s space program.

Commentators on Chinese social media have speculated that Beijing is developing a spacecraft like the US Air Force’s X-37B, an unmanned space plane that can remain in orbit for years.

The uncrewed, reusable X-37B returned to Earth in November 2022 from its sixth and final mission, after more than 900 days in orbit.


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