Military Review

Multipurpose mystery: China's first reusable spacecraft

27
Multipurpose mystery: China's first reusable spacecraft

Presumably, preparations for the launch of a reusable ship. Photo Weibo.com


China is developing its rocket and space program and exploring new directions. Recently, a flight of a promising reusable spacecraft was carried out. Most of the data about this event and the ship itself has not yet been published, which, however, did not prevent the emergence of various versions and estimates.

According to official data


On September 4, the Xinhua news agency announced a new space launch from the Jiuquan cosmodrome. The Changzheng-2F launch vehicle launched a reusable spacecraft into orbit. It was reported that the device will stay in orbit for some time, after which it will launch and land in the planned area. The purpose of the flight was called the development of reusable technologies and the provision of support for the peaceful use of space.

On September 6, Xinhua announced the successful landing of the ship. The two-day mission ended in the designated area. The successful flight has been called an important breakthrough in technology research. In addition, it was indicated that he provided experience for the development of cheaper and more convenient methods of delivering cargo into orbit. The peaceful purpose of the project was again emphasized.

Curiously, both official reports did not mention any technical or other details. The name, class and characteristics of the ship remain unknown. In addition, photo and video materials of the launch have not yet been published. The place and method of landing are not specified.


A new type of spaceplane may be hidden under a large fairing. Photo Weibo.com

Thanks to foreign space control means, information appeared about the orbital parameters of the Chinese spacecraft. The spacecraft was in geostationary orbit with an inclination of 50,2 °. Apogee and perigee were 348 and 332 km, respectively. It was not possible to establish the features of the deorbiting and the landing site.

Also in foreign sources, unofficial photographs of the launch vehicle appeared on the launch pad during preparation for launch. The ship's payload was not captured, but there are other interesting details. Satellite photos of the proposed landing site were soon released.

Reason for discussion


News from China, despite their specific nature and the absence of the most interesting details, naturally attracted the attention of foreign media and the interested public. Various versions and estimates are proposed based on the limited information available.

The class of the Chinese reusable ship is unknown, but the version about an orbiting aircraft should be considered the most plausible. Messages from past years speak in her favor. Thus, in the fall of 2017, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation announced its intention to launch a reusable ship in 2020. Then it was argued that upon returning to Earth, he would be able to perform aerodynamic flight and land "like an airplane." Astronauts and various cargoes were mentioned as future payloads.


Satellite image of the airfield where the ship could land. Photo Thedrive.com

It is quite possible that three years ago it was about a promising project, which by now has been brought to the first flight. In addition, over the past several years, CASC and related organizations have been involved in the creation of a spaceplane and even brought such a project to testing.

The general appearance, layout, layout and dimensions of the recently flown ship remain unknown. Alleged pre-launch photos show the ship being housed in a large fairing casing. Its diameter is roughly double that of the rocket, which indicates an approximate wingspan. At the same time, it is clear that the mass of the device does not exceed 8,4 tons - this is how much the launch vehicle can put into low-earth orbit.

Presumably, the test flight ended at the Lop Nor training ground in the Gobi Desert. There is an airfield with a long runway suitable for landing various equipment, incl. orbital aircraft. Satellite images taken after September 6 have already appeared in foreign media. Low quality images show some activity at the airfield, and an unknown large object is visible on the runway.

Succession issues


In the context of the latest news, it is necessary to recall the previous project of the Shenlong spacecraft, which has been developed since the beginning of the XNUMXs. With its help, the technological groundwork used in the current project could appear.

For the first time about the product "Shenlong" became known in 2007, and by that time the project had managed to advance quite far. Preliminary studies were completed and an experimental aircraft was built. At the end of 2007, the prototype was tested in the atmosphere: the H-6K bomber lifted it to a given height and dropped it, after which an independent flight took place.


The Shenlong prototype under the H-6K bomber. Photo Bmpd.livejournal.com

In early 2011, according to various sources, the Shenlong was first sent into orbit and returned back. Other launches were no longer reported. In addition, until recently, the question of the possibility of re-using this ship remained open. Apparently, the experimental apparatus was not reusable, and similar functions are provided only now, in the next project.

The experienced ship, seen under the bottom of the bomber, was a product with an elongated fuselage and a small delta wing. The glider was made with the necessary thermal protection, which resulted in a characteristic black and white appearance. In the tail section of the ship there was a propulsion system with one large nozzle. Perhaps the design changed between atmospheric and orbital tests.

In connection with the Chinese reusable spaceplane, one should recall the American development of the same class - the X-37B product developed by Boeing. This apparatus is approx. 9 m with a wing span of 3,5 m and a launch weight of less than 5 tons. Two ships were built, they are alternately sent into orbit. For 10 years of experiments, the flight duration was brought to 779 days. Mission objectives remain secret.

Special tool


According to official reports, the goal of the new Chinese project is to optimize the processes of delivering cargo to orbit. It is emphasized that all this is done for peaceful purposes. However, more accurate information has not yet been announced. When, how and for what purpose the ship is going to be used - it is not known, although this does not interfere with assessing its potential.


The American X-37B spaceplane is a likely functional analogue of the Chinese product. Photo by US Air Force

The reusable spaceplane is capable of solving a variety of military and scientific tasks. It can be used to conduct different types of reconnaissance for different purposes. Also, the spacecraft can become a carrier of small and ultralight satellites, capable of putting them into different orbits. If the flight duration is sufficient, it can work as a platform for various orbital research. Finally, a reusable spacecraft can be used as transport for people and goods, incl. in the interests of a promising space station project.

In all cases, a promising ship and a spent launch vehicle will provide the optimal cost of launch and operation as a whole. Due to these advantages, the new complex will be able to replace traditional systems in a number of areas. At the same time, there are restrictions on the launch mass and the weight of the payload.

Thus, the current project has the broadest prospects and is of great interest to various departments. The project was brought to flight tests, and the first launch was recognized as successful. In the near future, we should expect the introduction of new technologies in practice, in the peaceful and military spheres. As a result, the Chinese rocket and space industry will receive a completely new tool with special capabilities.

China traditionally does not disclose all its plans, and therefore it is not known how soon the new apparatus will reach mass exploitation and demonstrate all its capabilities. However, it is already clear that the Chinese rocket and space industry is expanding its capabilities and aspiring to world leadership.
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  1. Grandfather
    Grandfather 10 September 2020 05: 38 New
    +6
    Rogozin: "Yes, this is a printer, what to take from them!"))))
    1. Civil
      Civil 10 September 2020 07: 22 New
      +1
      Well, who is to blame for the decline of astronautics in the Russian Federation?
      1. alexmach
        alexmach 10 September 2020 14: 41 New
        -1
        Gorbachev, the collapse of the Union and the ensuing large-scale scientific and technical regression?
        1. Civil
          Civil 10 September 2020 14: 42 New
          +5
          Quote: alexmach
          Gorbachev, the collapse of the Union and the ensuing large-scale scientific and technical regression?

          Gorbachev was 30 years ago, the 90s were 20 years ago.
          1. alexmach
            alexmach 10 September 2020 14: 46 New
            +2
            And in them the country lost 2/5 of the population, God knows what, but clearly a large share of the industry. The prestige of engineering work and all that. I will not say that now in Russia everything is in order and everyone is sitting in their places, but it is also strange to demand miracles and leadership in a high-tech and high-cost industry from an economically productive and scientifically lagging country.
          2. Vladimir Mashkov
            Vladimir Mashkov 11 September 2020 10: 26 New
            +3
            Thanks to Kirill for an interesting article. The fog around the Chinese spacecraft is slowly dissipating.
          3. vVvAD
            vVvAD 12 September 2020 20: 14 New
            0
            Chaos in the heads, golden calf, gum, jeans, Coca-Cola.
            The generation of the 90s has grown from "effective" managers to "managers" in cleaning. And everyone decides questions at random. The Soviet system of standardization, personnel training, incl. engineering personnel, rationalization proposals, education, incl. high-quality higher education, upbringing and many other things are irretrievably lost.
            Western processing of our best forms was taken as samples, i.e. instead of reviving or trying to recreate the best Soviet practices and forms, for the most part, we create tracing copies from surrogates. Well, as a result, almost everything is done carelessly, with a disregard for procedures and standards (and the quality of modern standards and the quality of the work of standardization bodies and supervisory bodies is just a song), through connections, a disregard for a person.
            The whole country took part in this, starting with "chewing gum, jeans, Coca-Cola" and ending with foreign clothes, tape recorders, special stores, grain positions in distribution, diplomatic service and long voyage during the decadence of the USSR. Now, we seem to want to get out, but we can't: the new generation has its own cultural code, the old one is leaving, and the window of opportunities for transferring the remaining experience and recreating documentation (at least at the conceptual level) is closed.
            Welcome to a brave new world. No - a cruel and soulless world. The world of my generation.
            Fortunately, the new generation is less attached to the material, and nostalgia for what they know only from stories is materialized into a craving for transforming the present into something better, they integrate into our world and change it for themselves. Hopefully - for the better, because while the results of this are little noticeable - before the generation change ...
      2. Proxima
        Proxima 10 September 2020 15: 06 New
        +7
        Author, quote: “The ship was on geostationary orbit with an inclination of 50,2 °. Apogee and perigee were 348 and 332 km, respectively. " Kirill, correct illiteracy! Geostationary orbit is about 36 thousand kilometers from the Earth. The ship was in a low reference orbit.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 10 September 2020 06: 29 New
    11
    The Chinese do silently, without loud statements ...
    1. Ingvar 72
      Ingvar 72 10 September 2020 07: 01 New
      10
      But we come out ahead in animation! laughing
      But seriously, it is corny enviable.
    2. Vadim237
      Vadim237 10 September 2020 20: 47 New
      0
      "The Chinese do it in silence" - They copy from others even more precisely.
  3. UVB
    UVB 10 September 2020 06: 58 New
    10
    The spacecraft was in geostationary orbit with an inclination of 50,2 °. Apogee and perigee were 348 and 332 km, respectively
    !!! Geostationary is a circular orbit located above the equator of the Earth (0 ° latitude) at an altitude of 35 786 km above sea level
    1. DED_peer_DED
      DED_peer_DED 11 September 2020 00: 25 New
      0
      That, not ....
      At the same time, it is clear that the mass of the device does not exceed 8,4 tons - this is how much the launch vehicle can put into low-earth orbit.

      Low quality images show some activity at the airfield, and an unknown large object is visible on the runway.

      Only 8,4 tons (in the writer's dreams), but at the same time "an unknown LARGE object". Oh...
  4. Vladimir61
    Vladimir61 10 September 2020 07: 18 New
    -8
    Because of the "Novichok-Navalny" in the State Department, there was a complete rush, there was no one under the fuss and make a statement that China has once again shown that it systematically steals US technology.
    1. Trapp1st
      Trapp1st 10 September 2020 11: 42 New
      +2
      China has once again shown that it systematically steals technology
      Even if it steals, not only China is engaged in industrial espionage.
      1. Vladimir61
        Vladimir61 10 September 2020 19: 45 New
        -1
        Quote: Trapp1st
        Even if it steals, not only China is engaged in industrial espionage.

        Yes, it's not about the possibility of "running into" Russia, because of the "sudden" (I think that this is an operation from the outside, it is probably a purely "European") story with Navalny, overshadowed exclusively all US concerns!
    2. aries2200
      aries2200 10 September 2020 13: 58 New
      0
      everyone steals from each other ... common practice
  5. common man
    common man 10 September 2020 08: 37 New
    +2
    Questions arise. We are told that from space it is even possible to make out the license plates on the cars, but they could not take a picture of the landing site of the spaceplane. The flight trajectories of ballistic missiles are calculated up to centimeters, but the point and trajectory of the descent of this apparatus could not be determined. And not only we (Russia) but the rest of the "civilized" world.
    Second. How does this device reduce the cost of launches? So that in order to launch a satellite weighing 1 ton, it is necessary to put 7 tons into orbit, and then put 6 tons back? Doubtful. Probably their main purpose is the return of some cargo to Earth. Regardless of the cost. Or work as a reusable companion. He flew, went down, refilled consumables, passed the results and back into orbit. Only the reduction in price has nothing to do with it.
    1. kpd
      kpd 10 September 2020 10: 24 New
      +1
      The numbers can be seen, but only at a certain position of the spacecraft above the shooting point, provided that the exact location is known (the higher the magnification, the smaller the frame area) and cloudiness will not interfere. So there are a lot of restrictions.
      By the way - a "certain load" which is undesirable to destroy during descent from orbit has long been known, it also requires thermal stabilization and is sufficiently "gentle" to shock loads - is called a nuclear warhead.
  6. Daniil Konovalenko
    Daniil Konovalenko 10 September 2020 11: 21 New
    -1
    That's how many former Soviet engineers are working on this ... Plus trained Chinese personnel ..
    1. Jacket in stock
      Jacket in stock 10 September 2020 12: 05 New
      +3
      Former Soviet personnel helped them 25 years ago to create analogues of the "Union".
      I remember there were loud stories. Many sat down.
      And now they are doing great themselves.
  7. Undecim
    Undecim 10 September 2020 12: 04 New
    +4
    The author once again demonstrated his amazing talent with his article - to write a lot and about nothing.
    By the way, the Americans on “Space News” reported that the Chinese ship had released a “mysterious object” during the flight.
  8. Virus-free crown
    Virus-free crown 10 September 2020 13: 56 New
    -1
    I will find fault with only one sentence from the article:

    Thanks to foreign space control devices, information appeared about the orbital parameters of the Chinese spacecraft. The spacecraft was in geostationary orbit with an inclination of 50,2 °. Apogee and perigee were 348 and 332 km, respectively. It was not possible to establish the features of the deorbiting and the landing site.

    If in fact this is the case - I'm talking about the text in bold - then the entire world missile defense system can be thrown into the dustbin of history and start "from scratch" to create a missile defense system that the United States and Russia recourse

    How it is?! belay So China can at any time from space strike any blow to any point on Earth - and we with the Americans will learn about this only by the fact ?! am lol
    1. Vadim237
      Vadim237 10 September 2020 20: 50 New
      +2
      The author is not us, not the United States does not report what flew where and where it landed.
  9. Mikhail m
    Mikhail m 11 September 2020 05: 38 New
    +1
    China traditionally does not reveal all its plans
    Unlike Mr. Rogozin, when the plans are enormous, but there are no fathoms of steps.
  10. shonsu
    shonsu 18 October 2020 23: 56 New
    0
    The spacecraft was in geostationary orbit with an inclination of 50,2 °. Apogee and perigee were 348 and 332 km, respectively.

    How to understand it?
  11. shonsu
    shonsu 19 October 2020 00: 21 New
    0
    What can I say, well done Chinese. Since 2014, I have been writing everywhere on the Internet that this is a diagram of the near future: a reusable ship, vertical takeoff, landing on an airplane. And they regularly minus me everywhere. The fact that China has taken this path for me only proves that I am not that much.