A Long March 2F rocket carrying a “test spacecraft” took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on Friday, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
“The test spacecraft will be in orbit for some time before returning to the scheduled landing site in China, during which reusability and in-orbit service technology verification will be carried out as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful uses of space,” Xinhua news agency reported.
Testing of the craft included “technical verification of reusability and on-orbit services as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful uses of space”.
According to a report in Space News, the mystery vehicle is believed to be a robotic space plane, probably of a similar size to the US Space Force’s X-37B based on the considerable payload capacity of the Long March 2F.
In September 2020, China similarly launched a reusable test spacecraft. It stayed aloft for two days and left a small payload in orbit before landing in China, SpaceNews noted.
A “white paper” issued by China’s State Council Information Office in January this year said the country “will continue to strengthen research into key technologies for reusable space transportation systems, and conduct test flights accordingly.”
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