back to article China launches and lands its first re-usable spacecraft

China’s space program has launched and landed an experimental and re-usable spacecraft and by doing so may have signalled it can match the capabilities of a secretive US strategic asset. China scarcely acknowledged the launch and state media offered only scanty reports of the mission, saying the craft launched atop the Long …

  1. JDPower

    This article ends saying they won't be shy about it, yet here we are with a "three sentence story". Which suggests to me either this flight didn't go as well as reported or, more likely, it was the most basic of prototypes and they'd feel embarrassed publicising details.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Read it again. "Won't be shy about it" refers speculatively about using this craft to send crew to China's planned space station. A good PR move, peace in space etc

      The mission it has just completed (or possibly not, I'll grant you) might, as the article suggests, be for purposes akin to that of the USA's military space plane - the purpose of which has been secret.

      You're right that it's plausible that China's space plane may not have performed as well as expected, but there are also other plausible reasons for keeping details secret - as the USA effort illustrates.

      1. JDPower

        If they were keeping it secret there wouldn't have been even a three sentence story. China like to make the most of any technology advances, at least locally, so I remain suspicious of such a low key, detail free, article on a site aimed at the domestic audience. Only time will tell I guess.

      2. HildyJ Silver badge
        Pint

        The US has the capability to track their spacecraft throughout its flight, which it presumably did, and their silence argues that it was successful.

        The steps to launching a reusable crewed shuttle argue that this was unmanned and unmanable.

        But don't underestimate their capabilities or will or consistency of budget. Nobody expected most of China's space advances until they happened.

        And a Tsingtao to the boffins who made it happen, even if they work for a country the US is in a cold war with because - science and space.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          > But don't underestimate their capabilities or will or consistency of budget. Nobody expected most of China's space advances

          Like Clarke's 2010: Odyssey 2 then

        2. Lars Silver badge
          Happy

          "....the US is in a cold war with because - science and space."

          Perhaps more because of money and influence in the world, not that the orange bastard understands much anything about that.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      One must admit that China is not your average country, is not chatty about what it does and, contrary to the average teenager, does not feel the need to post everything it does to FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram etc.

      So we are just now learning that China got its hands on the Space Shuttle design, has been working on recreating it, and has now successfully launched and recovered one of its prototypes.

      Wow.

      I wonder if they've solved the problems with the protective tiles ?

      1. Lars Silver badge
        Coat

        It would not surprise me if the Chinese shuttle was more like the Russian Buran shuttle.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwLx4L5NRU0

        Did The Soviets Build A Better Space Shuttle? The Buran Story

        1. 96percentchimp

          Buran required a giant Energia booster to reach orbit, and the Shuttle required similar heft. Neither is a suitable comparison for a spaceplane launched atop the relatively weedy Long March 2F.

          The US military's X-37B is a much more likely comparison here. It's hardly an original design, having been developed from prototypes for an ISS lifeboat/crew transport replacement that NASA axed because Congress/Senate and successive presidents wouldn't allow it to develop a pathway beyond the Shuttle. The X-37B shares some parentage with the civilian Dream Chaser, and both ultimately derive from 1960s lifting body research that lead to the Shuttle.

    3. Caver_Dave
      Joke

      US submarine commander - "but that's top secret. How did you know about it?"

      "I read the Russian translation of the service manual." James Bond - "Never say never again"

      How many years ago, but still valid today?

  2. ClockworkOwl
    Go

    Fly like a eagle...

    " the new spacecraft will fly into the sky like an aircraft"

    ...strapped to a huge rocket...

    FTFY

  3. codejunky Silver badge

    And the US space force

    Doesnt sound as stupid an idea

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: And the US space force

      Yes it does.

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: And the US space force

      Guns in the Sky was not a paean to militarization.

  4. sitta_europea

    USA: "You've launched a satellite weapon into orbit!"

    Russia: "Our satellite is entirely for peaceful purposes!"

    USA: "No it isn't."

    Russia!: "Yes it is!"

    (X-37B secretly launches, does orbital manoeuvres, captures satellite, comes back to Earth with it...)

    USA: "Oh! So it is!"

    Anyone care to start the Open Space Movement? Might be a bit cheaper.

  5. Gene Cash Silver badge

    It's tiny

    Apparently it fits in a standard payload fairing, meaning it's tiny, and certainly can't carry people.

    OTOH, it might be 3 wheeled and easy to flip. Anyone seen Clarkson lately?

  6. Sirius Lee

    Staggered by the misplaced wonder

    So the Chinese have copied again. Wonder of wonders. They appear to have copied an idea that the Americans and Russians tried 50 year ago. This is not your grand father's rocket science. Now we have private individuals lobbing craft into space and, in the case of Musk, returning much of the rocket to earth.

    What possible wonder can there be of a country putting a space plane on the nose of a rocket? My view, which worth less than the effort to type it, is that it indicates the problem with China. It can copy but few people are willing to put their heads above the parapet to do innovative things or voice the obvious criticism that it's been tried before and been a failure (yes, the shuttle programme was ultimately a failure).

    When does anyone hear of a Chinese product and exclaim the breathtaking originality of the new chemical process or physics or management process. Sure the west got there first but there are still discoveries to be made - just not by a chinese person living in China. Note, I'm explicitly not disparaging the chinese intellect as I am sure that a chinese mind is as capable of being inventive as the minds in other cultures. It's just that those minds operate in an environment in which its not helpful to be unique.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Staggered by the misplaced wonder

      "When does anyone hear of a Chinese product and exclaim the breathtaking originality of the new chemical process or physics or management process"

      <life of Brian mode>What have the Chinese ever done for us... well, apart from the Four Great Inventions: papermaking, the compass, gunpowder, and printing, obviously... and banknotes.. and the chain drive

      (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_inventions)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Sirius Lee - Re: Staggered by the misplaced wonder

      You're right, you're not explicitely disparaging the Chinese space achievements but that doesn't mean you're happy.

      I understand you though, those Communists were supposed to be an exemplary failure, something like Venezuela or Cuba and that's what is bothering many people in the Western world.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: @Sirius Lee - Staggered by the misplaced wonder

        @AC

        "I understand you though, those Communists were supposed to be an exemplary failure, something like Venezuela or Cuba and that's what is bothering many people in the Western world."

        They were. Dragging their people into actual poverty not the relative stuff in the rich world. Managing to kill vast amounts of their own people for the ideology that has failed consistently without any successes (the nearest being N.Korea).

        I am thoroughly impressed with the Chinese putting in huge effort and actually managing to catch up to the 20th century. I hold out hope that they might be able to break through to being a success as Japan was, but of course it comes with huge risk and requires China fixing some of its political shortcomings.

        But the more global and capitalist (actually freer market) it has become the more of a success it has been and the more people pulled from that actual poverty and peasantry.

        1. 96percentchimp

          Re: @Sirius Lee - Staggered by the misplaced wonder

          The rose tinted glasses are really wedged onto your head at this point.

          Sure, the 'free market' has pulled people from poverty and peasantry, if you shrug off the millions trampled, displaced, murdered, poisoned and otherwise disenfranchised on the way there. I'm not saying it's any worse than the communist path, but the way you tell the story it's always an either/or situation, of fearless free marketeers bloodlessly liberating the peasants or authoritarian commies murdering babies. There's never any middle ground and not a scrap of self-awareness.

          1. codejunky Silver badge

            Re: @Sirius Lee - Staggered by the misplaced wonder

            @96percentchimp

            "Sure, the 'free market' has pulled people from poverty and peasantry, if you shrug off the millions trampled, displaced, murdered, poisoned and otherwise disenfranchised on the way there"

            Fair comment. I wont deny that. Just that it actually produces a better off population than the alternatives tried especially communism.

            "There's never any middle ground and not a scrap of self-awareness."

            The problem is that the starting point is all that death and destruction. Free market progresses people out of that to the point of relative problems instead of absolute. Communism drags people back even if they progressed forward previously, Back to that state of absolute problems you mention.

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