July 24, 2021

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China Secretively Launches Reusable Suborbital Vehicle for Space Transportation System

China Secretively Launches Reusable Suborbital Vehicle for Space Transportation System
“China conducted a clandestine first test flight of a reusable suborbital vehicle Friday as a part of development of a reusable space transportation system,” reports Space News:

The vehicle launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center Friday and later landed at an airport just over 800 kilometers away at Alxa League in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) announced. No images nor footage nor further information, such as altitude, flight duration or propulsion systems, were provided. The CASC release stated however that the vehicle uses integrated aviation and space technologies and indicates a vertical takeoff and horizontal landing profile.

The test follows a September 2020 test flight of a “reusable experimental spacecraft”. The spacecraft orbited for days, releasing a small transmitting payload and later deorbited and landed horizontally. The spacecraft is widely believed to be a reusable spaceplane concept, though no images have emerged. Giant space and defense contractor CASC also developed that vehicle and stated that the new vehicle tested Friday can be used as a first stage of a reusable space transportation system. The implication is that the two vehicles will be combined for a fully reusable space transportation system. The developments have not come out of the blue. China stated in 2017 that it aimed to test a reusable spaceplane in 2020…

Chen Hongbo, from CASC’s China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), told Science and Technology Daily (Chinese) in 2017 that the reusable spacecraft would be capable of carrying both crew and payloads… Chen stated the aim was full reusability, moving beyond partial reusability of Falcon 9-like launchers. The spaceplane, the development and testing of which is to be completed by 2030, should be capable of being reused more than 20 times.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.