Chinese space capsule
Officials stand near the capsule of the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft after it returned to earth carrying three Chinese astronauts in China’s Inner Mongolia on April 16, 2022. STR / AFP file photo

Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 09 May 2023

According to China Aerospace Science And Technology Cooperation, A reusable experimental spacecraft on 08 May 2023 (Monday) successfully returned to its scheduled landing site at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

Chinese News Agency Xinhua also reported that the spacecraft returned after 276 days of in-orbit operation. China officially confirmed that the success of the experiment marks an important breakthrough in China’s research on reusable spacecraft technologies, which will provide more convenient and affordable round-trip methods for the peaceful use of space in the future. The spacecraft reportedly was 100 times longer than its maiden flight less than three years ago.

According to a South China Morning Post report, the ‘mysterious’ spacecraft might be a reusable, un-crewed space vehicle. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the country’s biggest space defence contractor is known to have developed the spacecraft after it hailed the Chinese classified space mission a “complete success”, adding that it marked an “important breakthrough” in China’s research into the technology.

Shrouded in mystery,  it is not known what kind of technology CASTC used or how high the aircraft flew and where its orbits had taken it since its launch in early August 2022. Notably, such has been the secrecy that the Chinese space authorities are yet to release images of the craft to the public.

Experts close to the matter, however, argue that the suspected Chinese craft could be equipped with advanced imaging and sensing equipment to keep an eye on enemies and potential targets to gather sensitive intelligence data.

Last month, Chinese scientists allowed an artificial intelligence (AI) machine to take full control of one of its satellites. To everyone’s surprise, the AI-controlled satellite instantly locked Zoom on India’s Patna city which has the Bihar Regiment— the Indian Army unit that clashed with Chinese PLA in the Galwan Valley on 15th June 2020.

Chinese Government mouthpiece Global times quoted Xinhua News Agency’s earlier report that China launched a reusable experimental spacecraft using its Long March-2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on August 5, 2022, to test reusable technologies and in-orbit service technologies to support the peaceful use of space.

China tested the reusable experimental spacecraft in September 2020, and the spacecraft returned to the planned landing site after two days in orbit. The spacecraft was also launched with a Long March-2F carrier rocket.

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