12 May 2012

China’s Divine Space Plane?

David Axe, China’s Divine Space Plane? The Diplomat, 7 May 2012.

China is reportedly developing a reusable space vehicle that could launch atop a rocket and land like an airplane. If true – and if the development produces an operational vehicle – China will join the U.S. in the exclusive club of nations with so-called “space planes.” …

In January 2011, the Chinese vehicle, reportedly named “Divine Dragon,” flew on its first atmospheric test flight.

The timing was noteworthy, according to Andrew Erickson, a U.S. Naval War College analyst who has written the most in-depth assessment of the Divine Dragon. “The test flight announcement from a Sha’anxi TV station came within a month of the U.S. X-37B orbital vehicle’s return to earth after its first test flight and come almost simultaneously with China’s test flight of its J-20 fighter prototype,” Erickson wrote. “This reflects China’s growing technical proficiency in the aerospace sector.” …

For full text of the report referenced, see Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, Shenlong ‘Divine Dragon’ Takes Flight: Is China developing its first spaceplane? China SignPost™ (洞察中国), No. 58 (4 May 2012).