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Mystery Chinese spacecraft returns to Earth after 276 days in orbit | World News

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

The spacecraft completed a landmark mission to test the country’s reusable space technologies, the report added.

State media said the uncrewed spacecraft returned to the Jiuquan launch centre in northwest China as scheduled.

The spacecraft first launched in early August 2022, however, no details were given on what the spacecraft was, what technologies were tested and how high it flew into space.

Images of the craft have also yet to be released to the public.

An ‘important’ breakthrough

The test marks an “important” breakthrough in China’s research into reusable spacecraft technology that will provide a more convenient and inexpensive way to mount future space missions, state media said.

In 2021, a similar spacecraft capable of flying to the edge of the atmosphere took off and returned to Earth on the same day, in what China said was a big step towards developing reusable space transportation technology.

It landed on Earth “horizontally,” according to China’s main space contractor at the time.

Some speculated on social media 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 mission after more than 900 days in orbit.

“This mission [X-37B] highlights the Space Force’s focus on collaboration in space exploration and expanding low-cost access to space for our partners, within and outside of the Department of the Air Force (DAF),” said General Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations.

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Last year, China also launched three astronauts to its uncompleted space station for six months of construction work.

At the time, crew members Chen Dong, Can Xuzhe, and Liu Yang took flight and headed on to their mission.

In December of last year, the crew returned back home safely, appearing in high spirits as they waved happily at workers at the landing site.

Mr Chen, who was first to exit the capsule, said: “I am very fortunate to have witnessed the completion of the basic structure of the Chinese space station after six busy and fulfilling months in space.

“Like meteors, we returned to the embrace of the motherland.”

This story originally appeared on Skynews

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