Type to search

China’s Secret Spacecraft Returns to Earth After 9 Months

The experimental space vehicle’s 276-day journey in orbit was hailed as “an important breakthrough” in China’s research on reusable and “affordable spacecraft technologies”

The experimental space vehicle's 276-day journey in orbit was hailed as "an important breakthrough" in China's research on reusable and "affordable spacecraft technologies".
China's space plane returned to Earth on Monday after 276 days in orbit. No photos of the spacecraft have been revealed yet, but this diagram by NASA Space Flight gives an idea of what it could look like.


An unmanned Chinese spacecraft returned to Earth on Monday after staying in orbit for 276 days, China’s state media reported.

Xinhua said the “experimental” space vehicle returned to Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country’s northwest, one of three space launch bases in China.

The secret space vehicle’s nine-month journey in orbit, and return, “as scheduled”, was hailed as “an important breakthrough in China’s research on reusable spacecraft technologies”.

China’s research on reusable spacecraft technology “will provide a more convenient and affordable round-trip methods for the peaceful use of space in the future, the state media outlet said.


China Plans Satellite Network for Deep Space Exploration



No details were given on what the spacecraft was, what technologies were tested, how high it flew, and where its orbits had taken it since its launch in early August 2022. Images of the craft have also yet to be released to the public.

While little is known about the classified craft, the South China Morning Post noted that “some suspect could be used to gather intelligence.”

In 2021, what may have been a similar spacecraft flew to the edge of space and returned to Earth on the same day in a mission that was also kept largely under wraps. It landed on Earth “horizontally,” according to China’s main space contractor at the time.

Commentators on Chinese social media have speculated that Beijing has been developing a spacecraft like the US Air Force’s X-37B, an autonomous spaceplane that can remain in orbit for years.

The uncrewed and reusable X-37B returned to Earth in November last year in its sixth and latest mission, after more than 900 days in orbit.


  • Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard




China Says ‘Unforeseen’ Dust Pile-Up Behind Idle Mars Rover


China Seeking Ways to Take Out or Control Enemy Satellites


China’s Low-Earth Satellites Push in Starlink Catch-Up Bid


Musk’s Starlink Spurs Taiwan Satellite Internet Plan – Fortune



Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


AF China Bond