China in its attempt to to develop reusable space transportation technology has now developed a spacecraft capable of flying to the edge of the atmosphere and back with ease.
The country took off from the launch center in northwest China on Friday and completed its flight according to “set procedures” according to the country’s Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC) which is the country’s main space contractor.
It then landed back on Earth “horizontally”, CASC said in a statement.
A spacecraft that can fly to suborbital space ought to be able to travel to as high as 100 km (62 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The CASC did not say how high the spacecraft flew, or elaborate on its flight path. Visuals of the spacecraft or its flight were not provided.
“The development of reusable space transportation technology is an important symbol of China’s transition from a ‘big’ space-faring nation to a ‘powerful’ space-faring one,” CASC said.
The fact that the country can create reusable spacecraft will lead to higher frequency of missions and lower mission costs due to its reusability. Based on timeline, the country sent an experimental spacecraft into orbital space on a rocket and the spacecraft returned back to Earth after two days in orbit on a low-key mission.
Commentators on Chinese social media have speculated that Beijing has been developing a spacecraft like the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B, an autonomous spaceplane that can remain in orbit for long periods of time before flying back to Earth on its own.
It is not known if both the orbital and suborbital spacecraft launched by China had fixed wings like the U.S. Space Shuttle.