China has launched a reusable spacecraft for the third time. Not much is known about the mission, but the launch will eclipse the United States, which will not put its own vehicle into orbit until the end of December.
On Thursday morning, the Changcheng 2F (Long March) rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan launch site in the Gobi Desert. On board was a spaceplane that successfully entered low Earth orbit on the same day. This was reported by Chinese state media Xinhua.
The plane will remain in space for a period of time, and then return. This is scheduled to take place at the military airport Loop light In the Xinjiang region of western China. The plane will land on a runway similar to the space shuttle. This was also the case with the previous two trips.
It is not known how long the plane will remain in orbit around Earth. The previous flight continued About 276 daysOnly the first two. Little is known about the test vehicle’s mission. During the previous test flight, an experimental satellite was placed in space. China does not say its purpose or whether it even exists.
A competitor to American aircraft
The United States is also working on a reusable spaceplane, the Boeing X-37B. Not much is known about that. The plane resembles a miniature space shuttle, and has completed six missions since 2010. It remained during its last mission, which ended in November 2022. For 908 days In orbit around Earth. Experts believe that the design of the Chinese aircraft is based on the X-37B.
Normally, the seventh mission was supposed to launch on Sunday, December 18, aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket. But on Friday it was announced that the trip would be postponed for nearly two weeks. The missile will be there soon It was launched on December 28.
The new space race
Although the United States is still the leader at present, China is quickly catching up in space travel. China’s space program, which sent a person into space for the first time in 20 years, has successfully carried out several unmanned missions to the moon in recent years. For example, he placed our Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) space station in Earth orbit. Tiangong now has a full staff and has one Number of crew changes Experienced.
China has a few more ambitious missions ahead. The space telescope will soon be available Shuntian It took off (looking at the sky). It is very similar to Hubble, but will have a much wider field of view (up to 300 times). Moreover, the telescope will soon be in an orbit that allows it to maneuver toward Tiangong. This allows astronauts to carry out maintenance work without complex launches from Earth, as is the case with Hubble.
In the coming years, China will also test the Changqing 9 rocket, a future competitor to the US SLS moon rocket. The superheavy launch vehicle should eventually become fully reusable, unlike NASA’s disposable spacecraft. In addition, there are also a number of private companies in China, e.g CAS space And iSpace, and developing their own reusable launch vehicles. Although space travel is currently like that It is dominated by SpaceX (And soon some other American companies like Blue Origin and… Relative space), obviously it won’t stay that way forever.
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