China’s first reusable spacecraft lands after 2 days in orbit


BEIJING – China’s first reusable spacecraft landed on Sunday after two days in orbit, a possible step towards lower-cost spaceflight, the government said.

The secret, military-run space program released some details about the craft, which was launched on a Long March 2F rocket on Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the desert northwest of China.

The craft landed in Jiuquan as planned, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

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State media have yet to release any photos. The size and shape of the craft is unclear.

The flight “marks a significant breakthrough in our country’s research into reusable spacecraft” that promises a “more convenient and inexpensive way” to reach space, Xinhua said.

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China put its first astronaut into orbit in 2003 and launched a space station. Last year, it became the first country to land a robot rover on the far side of the moon. A probe carrying another robot rover is on its way to Mars.

Both the United States and the former Soviet Union have flown reusable spacecraft.

The US space shuttle flew 134 missions from the 1980s to 2011. Since then, the US military has developed the X-37, a robotic glider that made its sixth flight in May.

The Soviet spaceplane, Buran, orbiting Earth twice during its only unscrewed flight in 1988.


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