The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced last week that it plans to launch a reusable space plane capable of taking off and landing on a runway around the year 2020.
Unlike traditional one-off spacecraft, the new spacecraft will fly into the sky like an aircraft, said Chen Hongbo, a researcher from the corporation. The spacecraft can transport people or payload into the orbit and return to Earth.
The U.S. Air Force’s first unmanned re-entry spacecraft landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base at 1:16 a.m. today.
The X-37B, named Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1), conducted on-orbit experiments for more than 220 days during its maiden voyage. It fired its orbital maneuver engine in low-earth orbit to perform an autonomous reentry before landing.
Preparations for the first landing of the X-37B are underway at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Space professionals from the 30th Space Wing will monitor the de-orbit and landing of the Air Force’s first X-37B, called the Orbital Test Vehicle 1 (OTV-1). While the exact landing date and time will depend on technical and weather considerations, it is expected to occur between Friday, December 3, and Monday, December 6, 2010.