Shenlong (spacecraft)


Role Reusable robotic spaceplane
National origin China
First flight 11 December 2007 (drop tests)
8 January 2011 (suborbital flight)
Status In development
Primary user People's Liberation Army (PLA)
China National Space Administration (CNSA)[1]

Shenlong (simplified Chinese: 神龙; traditional Chinese: 神龍; pinyin: shén lóng; lit. 'divine dragon') is a Chinese reusable robotic spaceplane currently in development.[1] Only a few pictures have appeared since it was revealed in late 2007.[2]

Shenlong Test Platform

The latest academic models shown in 2000, reveal a delta winged spaceplane with a single vertical stabilizer, equipped with three high-expansion engines. Presuming a seating arrangement of two crew members sitting side-by-side in the cockpit, dimensions could be very roughly estimated as a wingspan of 8 m, a length of 12 m and a total mass of 12 tonnes. This is within the payload capability of the Chinese CZ-2F or type A launch vehicles.[citation needed]

Shenlong spaceplane

Images of an aerodynamic scaled model, ready to be launched from under the fuselage of a Xian H-6 bomber,[3] were first published in the Chinese media on 11 December 2007. Code named Program 863-706, the Chinese name of this spacecraft was revealed as "Shenlong Spaceplane" (神龙空天飞机). These images, possibly taken in late 2005, show the vehicle's black reentry heat shielding, indicating a reusable design, and its engine assembly.[4] First sub-orbital flight of the Shenlong reportedly took place on 8 January 2011.[5]

It has been proposed that the vehicle is fitted with a Russian-designed D-30K turbofan engine, which would likely not provide enough power to reach low Earth orbit. A larger Shenlong model, however, would be capable of carrying a payload to orbit. Analysts had previously reported on a late 2006 Chinese test flight of what is believed to be a scramjet demonstrator, possibly related to the Shenlong vehicle.[4]

Earlier, images of the High-enthalpy Shock Waves Laboratory wind tunnel of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) State Key Laboratory of High-Temperature Gas Dynamics (LHD) were published in the Chinese media. Tests with speeds up to Mach 20 were reached around 2001.[6]

As of 2007, the CAS academician Zhuang Fenggan (莊逢甘) said that a first test flight of the spaceplane would be conducted during the "Eleventh Five-Year Plan", meaning from 2006 to 2010.[7] The state-owned Xinhua News Agency reported in 2017 that China planned to launch a reusable spacecraft in 2020 designed to "fly into the sky like an aircraft".[8]

Around 4 September 2020, China conducted a covert launch of a Long March-2F/T2 rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center which is to believed to have carried a Chongfu Shiyong Shiyan Hangtian Qi (version of the Shenlong). Chinese media emitted a laconic report referring, that "the test spacecraft will be in orbit for a period of time before returning to the domestic scheduled landing site. During this period, it will carry out reusable technology verification as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful use of space".[9]


  1. ^ a b Moss, Trefor (4 September 2020). "China Launches Experimental Spaceplane". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  2. ^ Richard Fisher, Jr. (17 December 2007). "Shenlong Space Plane Advances China's Military Space Potential". International Assessment and Strategy Center. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b "中国"神龙"飞行器首度曝光 身世扑朔迷离". 11 January 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2008.
  5. ^ "Shenlong "Divine Dragon" takes flight, is China developing its first spaceplane?". China Signpost. 4 May 2012. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  6. ^ "氢氧爆轰驱动激波高焓风洞". 中国科学院高温气体动力学重点实验室. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  7. ^ "國產空天飛機 3年內試飛". 香港文匯報. 11 December 2007. Retrieved 16 April 2008.
  8. ^ "China tests experimental reusable spacecraft shrouded in mystery". Spaceflight Now. 8 September 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  9. ^ "氢China launches experimental spaceplane". 3 September 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.