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China launches mystery rocket experts think may be a surveillance ‘space plane’ to rival US spy craft

CHINA’S first reusable spacecraft landed yesterday after two days in orbit, the latest shot fired in Beijing’s battle against the United States for space dominance.

The secretive, military-run space program has released few details of the craft, which was launched Friday aboard a Long March 2F rocket.

It’s believed the vehicle is a space plane that is carried to orbit before detaching and circling the globe at high altitude.

Once its mission is complete, the spaceship lands on a runway back on Earth where it will be refurbished for future missions.

The successful first flight of China’s spacecraft marks a possible step toward lower-cost space flight, the Chinese government announced.

“The flight marks an important breakthrough in our country’s research on reusable spacecraft that promise a more convenient and inexpensive way to reach space,” the state-owned Xinhua News Agency said.

It’s not clear what the vehicle will be used for. A similar US space plane called the X-37 is thought to snap photos as part of surveillance operations.

China’s reusable ship launched Friday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the country’s northwest desert.

The craft landed as planned at Jiuquan on Sunday, Xinhua said.

State media have yet to publish any photos. The craft’s size and shape are unclear.

China fired its first astronaut into orbit in 2003 and has launched a space station.

Last year, it became the first country to land a robot rover on the moon’s little-seen far side.

A probe carrying another robot rover is en route to Mars.

The United States and the former Soviet Union both flew reusable spacecraft.

The U.S. space shuttle flew 134 missions from the 1980s until 2011.

Since then, the U.S. military has developed the X-37, a robot glider that made its sixth flight in May.

SpaceX, a private rocket company based in California, build rockets with reusable parts to make flights into orbit cheaper.

The Soviet space plane, Buran, orbited the Earth twice during its single uncrewed flight in 1988.

In other news, the secretive US space plane X-37B recently landed after a record-breaking 780 days in orbit.

A stargazer captured an image of the mysterious spacecraft from his back garden last year.

And, an Apollo astronaut has admitted that he nearly died ‘trying to do a high jump’ on the Moon in 1972.

What do you think of China’s space plane plans? Let us know in the comments!

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