China successfully launched a ‘reusable experimental spacecraft’ on Friday, state media reported. The mission was shrouded in mystery, with those attending the event reportedly banned from filming or even discussing it.
The spacecraft was delivered to orbit by a Long March-2F rocket, which blasted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwest of the country, Xinhua news agency reported.
The mysterious hardware “will test reusable technologies during its flight,” it said, pointing out that the aims of the project were peaceful. After spending an undisclosed amount of time in orbit, the spacecraft will return to Earth, landing at a scheduled site in China, the agency reported.
The Chinese authorities apparently put a lot of effort into keeping the mission a secret. A copy of an official memo popped up on Chinese social media, instructing staff and guests at the launch not to film it or to discuss it online.
“All units should strengthen personnel security education and personnel management during missions to ensure that there is no leakage of secrets,” the document read.
A military source confirmed the authenticity of the memo to the South China Morning Post paper.
“There are many firsts in this launch. The spacecraft is new, the launch method is also different. That’s why we need to make sure there is extra security,” he said.
The unnamed official refused to disclose any information about the Chinese spacecraft, only advising journalists to “take a look at the US X-37B.”
Boeing’s X-37 or Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV) is used by the US military to test out reusable space technologies. The unmanned craft is boosted to orbit by a carrier rocket and then returns to Earth, landing on airfield like a spaceplane. X-37B has carried out six missions since 2010, the latest in May.
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