“Successful flight has become an important breakthrough for the country in reusable spacecraft research, and is expected to provide convenient and inexpensive round-trip transportation for the peaceful use of space,” said a brief three-paragraph report.
China did not provide photos of the spacecraft, nor did they provide details about the size or configuration.
It is said that it was launched aboard the Long March-2F aircraft carrier rocket, the 14th mission of the rocket used in the Chinese manned mission.
The Chinese report has sparked widespread speculation that China has launched something similar to the US Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV).
The X-37B has been orbiting since the end of May after firing its sixth mission, according to the Air Force fact sheet. It is described as a small unmanned version of the space shuttle that NASA retired in 2011.
“The unmanned OTV is designed for vertical launch into low Earth orbital altitudes that can perform long-term space technology experiments and tests,” says the Air Force. “When ordered from the ground, the OTV autonomously re-enters the atmosphere, descends and lands horizontally on the runway.”
The X-37B is used to test a wide range of technologies, from avionics to propulsion to advanced materials for space flight, the Air Force says.
However, each X-37B mission is so secretive that it has sparked public speculation that the plane could be used for spying or testing space weapons.
After OTV completed its mission on October 780, the Air Force said it had conducted an experiment for the Air Force Research Institute (AFRL). AFRL develops “combat skills” for the aerospace, space and cyberspace sectors, according to their website. We are developing laser weapons that can be mounted on aircraft, for example.
Driven by billions of dollars of government investment, Beijing has launched space laboratories and satellites into orbit, and even became the first country to send unmanned probes to the far side of the moon.
China is working to send astronauts to the Moon and Mars.