An experimental Chinese spacecraft has landed back on Earth after 276 days in orbit, after testing the nation’s reusable rocket technologies. The spacecraft successfully landed at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China and was the subject of extensive speculation during its time in space, due to its mysterious mission.
First reported by Chinese state media agency Xinhua News, the flight was to further China’s reusable rocket program for “more convenient and affordable round-trip methods for the peaceful use of space in the future”.
The spacecraft is shrouded in secrecy. It has no known designation, no images are available, and it's unknown what altitude it reached, and what technologies were being tested. It has now been reported that the rocket and its payload were likely testing technologies similar to US Space Force's X-37B, though it is unclear to what extent they have succeeded.
All that is known is that the craft was launched onboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Gobi desert in August 2022. From there, it released a satellite that stayed close to the main craft and was tracked by the US Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron, though its close proximity to the larger spacecraft made it difficult to initially identify. It is unclear whether the satellite returned with the main craft.