China’s Spacecraft Mystifies by Capturing and Releasing Satellites

China's mysterious space plane has captured and released satellites

A Chinese spacecraft that recently returned to Earth after 276 days has captured and most likely released a satellite, according to US astronomer Jonathan McDowell as reported by the science magazine Nature. The object disappeared in January and reappeared in March, and due to strict secrecy surrounding the mission, it is unclear what it was used for. McDowell suggests that the spacecraft may have a robotic arm for carrying payloads in space and testing satellite repairs. It is believed to be similar to the US space glider X-37B and a possible weight between five and eight tons.

The spacecraft was launched in August 2020, and details about its mission have been scarce due to heightened levels of secrecy in China. Video footage of the spacecraft’s packaging revealed bulges that could fit small wings, but it is not known if this is the same spacecraft launched in 2020, which orbited the Earth for only two days.

The X-37B, developed by Boeing for the US Air Force, holds the record for the longest space mission at 908 days in orbit. It has been used for experiments in solar energy, deploying satellites, and preparations for interplanetary missions and permanent bases in space.

The level of secrecy in China has made it impossible to determine the precise nature of the mission, but the captured satellite points to potential capabilities for carrying payloads and testing satellite repairs.

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