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Chinese Spaceplane Trailed By Six Mysterious Objects Transmitting Repeating Pattern

Several of the objects are emitting signals, though what China is testing is unclear.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

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Satellites being deployed in low Earth orbit.

Spacecraft are used to deploy satellites, like these placed in low-Earth orbit by NASA in 2012. 

Image credit: NASA/Flickr.

On December 14, China launched an experimental and reusable spaceplane into low Earth orbit, the spaceship's third trip into space. China is keeping quiet about the purpose of the spaceplane, however, four days into the mission amateur astronomer and satellite tracker Scott Tilley noticed that trailing behind the craft were six "mysterious wingmen", several of which appear to be emitting signals.

"The test spacecraft will operate in orbit for a period of time and then return to a scheduled landing site in China," Chinese state media outlet Xinhua reported. "During this period, reusable technology verification and space science experiments will be carried out as planned to provide technical support for the peaceful use of space."

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The objects, which are being tracked by several organizations, are emitting different kinds of data. 

"OBJECT A's or nearby emission is reminiscent of earlier Chinese space plane 'wingman' emissions in the sense the signal is modulated with a limited amount of data," Tilley told Space.com, adding that objects labeled D and E look like they're broadcasting placeholder signals, sending no useful data.


Analyzing the data from Object A, amateur radio operator Daniel Estévez found small variations in the transmission, but not much else.

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"One thing is clear," he wrote on his website. "The signal doesn’t have much data in it, as most of the bits show the same repeating pattern."

It remains unclear the purpose of the additional satellites, or what China is testing.

[H/T: Space.com]


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