A mysterious Chinese space plane has dropped an object into orbit

A mysterious Chinese space plane has dropped an object into orbit

For several months, a drone launched by China has been operating in orbit around Earth without us knowing what it looks like or what its mission is. And now we learn that he had just shot down an equally mysterious object.

The US Space Force teams responsible for monitoring the space field listed the object under the number 59884. According to Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a monitor of space activity, it could be a subsatellite or equipment. China wants to get rid of it before its space plane returns to Earth. However, there is radio silence from Beijing.

This space plane has already deployed objects into orbit

The spaceplane, dubbed Shenlong (or “divine dragon”), took off on December 14, 2023 aboard a Long March 2F rocket for a third mission, the duration of which is unknown. The inaugural flight took place between 4 and 6 September 2020. Shenlong then departed for a one-year and eleven-month mission between August 2022 and May 2023.

Four days after its launch last December, the reusable space plane had deployed six objects into Earth's orbit, some of which were emitting signals. Mystery remains about the nature and purpose of these objects.

During this third flight, the US Space Force noticed that the device changed its orbit from the current 333 (348 km) altitude to the current 602 (609 km) altitude. China's only official communication about this program is very brief I reported It is published following the launch on December 14, 2023.

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In particular, we can read that this space plane ” It will verify reusable technology and space science experiments as planned, thus providing technical support for the peaceful use of space. »

The US X-37B spaceplane is also on a mission

This is enough to raise a lot of questions among other space powers, most notably the United States, which also has a reusable spaceplane, the X-37B. He set off a few days after Shenlong, on December 28, on his seventh mission called USSF-52, the progress and content of which remain largely a mystery.

Therefore, even if the US Army has now officially announced the existence of the X-37B, it remains stingy with details. The US Space Force press release stated: Exploiting reusable spacecraft in new orbital systems, experimenting with future space awareness technologies and studying the effects of radiation on materials provided by NASA “.

The fact that the X-37B was first launched by a Falcon Heavy rocket suggests that it must operate at a much higher altitude than on previous missions.

The X-37B has flown six long-duration missions since April 2010. The last mission ended in November 2022 after 908 days in space, setting a new duration record in the process. In total, this unknown device spent 3,774 days in space.

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