|Names||China Reusable spacecraft|
|Mission duration||2 days|
|Spacecraft type||Reusable spacecraft|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||4 September 2020, 07:30 UTC |
|Rocket||Long March 2F|
|Launch site||Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center|
|End of mission|
|Landing date||6 September 2020, 02:00 UTC |
|Landing site||Lop Nur, runway 05|
|Reference system||Geocentric orbit |
|Regime||Low Earth orbit|
|Periapsis altitude||332 km|
|Apoapsis altitude||348 km|
|Period||90.0 minutes (?)|
The Chinese reusable experimental spacecraft (Chinese: 可重复使用试验航天器; pinyin: Kě chóngfù shǐyòng shìyàn hángtiān qì; lit. 'Reusable Experimental Spacecraft'; CSSHQ) is the first Chinese reusable spacecraft. It was launched on 4 September 2020 at 07:30 UTC on a Long March 2F from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China. Xinhua News Agency said in a report, "After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to the scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space".
On September 7, 2020, commercial satellite reconnaissance company Planet Labs published a satellite photo of a 3.1 miles (5.0 km) runway at Lop Nur, taken shortly after the landing of the spaceplane. Jonathon McDowell, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, speculated that one of the dots visible on the runway is the Chinese spaceplane.
On September 8, 2020, Space Flight Now reported American officials had detected the launch at 7:30 GMT, that the craft's orbit's axes were 332 kilometres (206 mi) and 348 kilometres (216 mi), and its orbit was titled 50.2 degrees to the equator.
Chen Hongbo, of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for China's space agency, said during a 2017 interview that China's space plane would be able to be re-used up to 20 times. Chen said the vehicle's first stage would use a scramjet engine.
When asked to speculate on the spaceplane's role Brian Weedon, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation said, "It's a great question. We're not even really sure why the U.S. military is pursuing a space plane."
McDowell speculated that the very high speeds the spaceplane underwent during re-entry might help the Chinese in their development of hypersonic missiles. He added the Chinese may have thought, "If the Americans have one of those, there's got to be a good reason for it, so we better get one too."
The spacecraft took off on top of a Long March 2F rocket Friday from the Jiuquan launch base in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China, according to a statement from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., or CASC, the state-owned company that oversees China’s space industry.
After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to the scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space.
The successful flight marked the country's important breakthrough in reusable spacecraft research and is expected to offer convenient and low-cost round trip transport for the peaceful use of the space.
The photo, which is too low resolution to be conclusive, was snapped by the San Francisco-based company Planet. It shows what could be the classified Chinese spacecraft on a long runway, along with several support vehicles lined up nearby.
The reusable launch vehicle can carry large payloads into orbit, return to the earth and be reused many times, said Chen Hongbo, director of the research and development center at the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology at CASC.
Chinese social media has been rife with speculation over the spacecraft, which some commentators compared to the U.S. Air Force's X-37B, an autonomous spaceplane made by Boeing that can remain in orbit for long periods of time before flying back to Earth on its own.
The China Academy of Launch Technology (a CASC subsidiary) research and development Director Chen Hongbo told the official Xinhua News Agency that the two-stage spaceplane would be rocket-powered at first, and will be able to fly off a runway at hypersonic speeds to near space.
With a length of 8.8 meters and a takeoff weight of 21.6 tonnes, the spaceship will be able to carry six astronauts. It is designed for safety and reliability, and can adapt to multiple tasks.