China reusable spacecraft launches and lands successfully

China’s Long March-2F carrier rocket during a 2016 launch.

STR | AFP | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — China has successfully launched and landed an experimental reusable spacecraft, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency which lauded the achievement as an “important breakthrough.”

The spacecraft was launched on a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan launch center located in Inner Mongolia on Friday. 

It spent two days in orbit and and returned to the scheduled landing site on Sunday, Xinhua said. 

There are very few details on the project which appeared to be shrouded in secrecy. There are no official images of the spacecraft.

Xinhua called the event an “important breakthrough” in research of reusable spacecraft technology in China which can provide a “more convenient and cheap” way to travel back and forth from space for “peaceful” purposes. 

Reusable spacecraft are seen as way of reducing the cost of space travel. The U.S. has an unmanned reusable spacecraft called the X-37B which has already completed a handful of missions.

China has been pushing for the development of its space program and has had some notable successes.

The country completed its Beidou satellite system in June which is seen as a rival to the U.S. government-owned Global Positioning System (GPS). And in July, China launched its first solo mission to Mars. 

Last year, China became the first nation to land a spacecraft on the so-called dark side of the moon.

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