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Space & Astronomy

China's space plane releases another mystery object into orbit

By T.K. Randall
May 30, 2024 · Comment icon 0 comments

What is China's space plane up to ? Image Credit: NASA
China's answer to the X-37B is doing something in Earth's orbit and nobody is quite sure what that might be.
Officially part of China's efforts to develop reusable spaceflight technologies, the space plane (known as Shenlong) has long remained something of an enigma.

In reality, it is likely to perform a similar role to the X-37b - a secretive space plane originally developed by NASA before being handed over to the US Department of Defense which has itself conducted numerous secretive missions into space lasting up to several years at a time.

Shenlong launched on its most recent mission back in December 2023, once again prompting a great deal of speculation over what it was actually doing and what sort of experiments it might be running.

Now, according to reports, the secretive vehicle has released a mysterious object - first spotted by Harvard astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell - into Earth's orbit around 372 miles above the surface.
"This object could be a subsatellite deployment, or it could be a piece of hardware ejected prior to end of the mission and deorbit (the spaceplane's first flight did something similar)," said McDowell.

"Will be interesting to see if the plane maneuvers or lands soon."

China has typically declined to provide specific details about what Shenlong is doing, offering only that on its previous mission it aimed to "provide technical support for the peaceful use of space."

Given that the US has been similarly secretive about the activities of the X-37b, however, it is unlikely that China is going to be particularly forthcoming about what Shenlong is up to anytime soon.

Source: Mail Online | Comments (0)

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