China launches reusable spacecraft
China on 4 September 2020 successfully launched a reusable experimental spacecraft whose mission details have been kept secret. The spacecraft was launched on a Long March-2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China. After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to a predetermined landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space.
- The X-37B is an unmanned space plane that operates like a smaller version of the Space Shuttle, which is launched by a rocket and cruises back to earth for a runway landing.
- It has flown four classified missions to date, carrying secret payloads on long-duration flights in Earth orbit.
- The 4 September 2020 launch comes weeks after China launched Tianwen-1, the country's first Mars mission, from Hainan in late July.
- The China National Space Administration said its spacecraft, including an orbiter, lander and rover, was performing well on its way to Mars.
- A month before that, China completed the network of satellites for its BeiDou navigation network, a competitor to the Global Positioning System (GPS) system of the US.