China has launched the first unmanned spacecraft into orbit for a classified mission on 4 September.
Chinese state media Xinhua reported mission success just under three hours after the opening of the launch window at 1:23 a.m. Eastern. The ‘reusable experimental spacecraft’ is currently in orbit carrying out tests.
“After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to the scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space,” the Xinhua report stated.
“The spacecraft will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space,” per Xinhua.
At the same time, The Verge reported that a mysterious vehicle that is drawing comparisons to the US’s classified X-37B spaceplane, will remain in orbit “for a period of time” and will conduct some classified mission.
In October 2017, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said it was working with agencies within China to develop a reusable vehicle, with the first flight planned for around 2020. It’s unclear exactly what the spacecraft looks like, as there aren’t any official renders or photos of the vehicle.