Reusable Experimental Spacecraft
NamesChina Reusable spacecraft
COSPAR ID2020-063A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.46389
Mission duration1 day, 18 hours and 30 minutes
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeReusable spacecraft
Launch massUndisclosed
Start of mission
Launch date4 September 2020, 07:30 UTC[1]
RocketLong March 2F
Launch siteJiuquan Satellite Launch Center
End of mission
Landing date6 September 2020, 02:00 UTC [2]
Landing siteLop Nur, runway 05
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit[1]
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Periapsis altitude332 km
Apoapsis altitude348 km
Period90.0 minutes (?)

The Chinese reusable experimental spacecraft (Chinese: 可重复使用试验航天器; pinyin: Kě chóngfù shǐyòng shìyàn hángtiān qì; lit. 'Reusable Experimental Spacecraft'; CSSHQ) is the first Chinese reusable spacecraft. It was first launched on 4 September 2020 at 07:30 UTC on a Long March 2F from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China.[3][4][2][5] Xinhua News Agency said in a report, "After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to the scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space".[6]

Unofficial reports indicate that the spacecraft is part of the Shenlong programme, which is claimed to be similar to the Boeing X-37B.[7]


On 6 September 2020, two days after the launch, the CSSHQ successfully returned to an airbase.[8][9] Marco Langbroek and Jonathan McDowell said the landing site was an airbase at Lop Nur.[2]

On 7 September 2020, commercial satellite reconnaissance company Planet Labs published a satellite photo of a 3.1-mile (5.0 km) runway at Lop Nur, taken shortly after the landing of the spaceplane.[10] Astronomer Jonathan McDowell of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, speculated that one of the dots visible on the runway is the Chinese spaceplane.[10]

On 8 September 2020, Spaceflight Now reported American officials had detected the launch at 7:30 GMT, that the craft's orbit's axes were 332 kilometres (206 mi) and 348 kilometres (216 mi), and its orbit was titled 50.2 degrees to the equator.[1]

2nd mission

On 4 August 2022 at around 16:00 UTC, the CSSHQ was launched for a second time, also on top of a Long March 2F.[11] It raised its orbit on August 25 to a near-circular 597 by 608-kilometer orbit.[12]


Chen Hongbo, of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for China's space agency, said during a 2017 interview that China's space plane would be able to be re-used up to 20 times.[1][13] Chen said the vehicle's first stage would use a scramjet engine.[14]

On 24 March 2020, officials said the vehicle[clarification needed][dubious ] was designed to carry a crew of six.[15] Its takeoff weight would be 21.6 tonnes, and it would be 8.8 metres (29 ft) long.[15][better source needed]

Speculation over the spaceplane's role

When asked to speculate on the spaceplane's role Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation said, "It's a great question. We're not even really sure why the U.S. military is pursuing a space plane."[10]

Jonathan McDowell[who?] speculated that the very high speeds the spaceplane underwent during re-entry might help the Chinese in their development of hypersonic missiles.[10] He added the Chinese may have thought, "If the Americans have one of those, there's got to be a good reason for it, so we better get one too."[10]


  1. ^ a b c d e Clark, Stephen (8 September 2020). "China tests experimental reusable spacecraft shrouded in mystery". Spaceflight Now. Archived from the original on 10 September 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2020. The spacecraft took off on top of a Long March 2F rocket Friday from the Jiuquan launch base in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China, according to a statement from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., or CASC, the state-owned company that oversees China’s space industry.
  2. ^ a b c "China launches own mini-spaceplane reusable spacecraft using a Long March 2F rocket... then lands it two days later". Seradata. 6 September 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2020.
  3. ^ "China launches reusable experimental spacecraft". Xinhuanet. Jiuquan. 4 September 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2020. After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to the scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space.
  4. ^ "我国成功发射可重复使用试验航天器" [Our country successfully launched a reusable experimental spacecraft]. Xinhuanet. 4 September 2020.
  5. ^ "Chongfu Shiyong Shiyan Hangtian Qi (CSSHQ)". Gunter's space page.
  6. ^ "China just launched a "reusable experimental spacecraft" into orbit". 4 September 2020. Retrieved 4 September 2020.
  7. ^ "China's mystery experimental spacecraft could be part of Shenlong". South China Morning Post. 8 September 2020. Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  8. ^ "China's reusable experimental spacecraft back to landing site". Xinhuanet. Jiuquan. 6 September 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2020. The successful flight marked the country's important breakthrough in reusable spacecraft research and is expected to offer convenient and low-cost round trip transport for the peaceful use of the space.
  9. ^ "China's Experimental Reusable Spacecraft Lands Successfully - Xinhua". Reuters. 6 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e Geoff Brumfiel (7 September 2020). "New Chinese Space Plane Landed At Mysterious Air Base, Evidence Suggests". National Public Radio. Retrieved 19 September 2020. The photo, which is too low resolution to be conclusive, was snapped by the San Francisco-based company Planet. It shows what could be the classified Chinese spacecraft on a long runway, along with several support vehicles lined up nearby.
  11. ^ Jones, Andrew (4 August 2022). "China launches secretive reusable test spacecraft". SpaceNews. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Ryan Woo; Stella Qiu; Simon Cameron-Moore (6 September 2020). "Reusable Chinese Spacecraft Lands Successfully: State Media". Halifax Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on 6 October 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2020. Chinese social media has been rife with speculation over the spacecraft, which some commentators compared to the U.S. Air Force's X-37B, an autonomous spaceplane made by Boeing that can remain in orbit for long periods of time before flying back to Earth on its own.
  14. ^ Jeffrey Lin; P.W. Singer (18 December 2017). "China could become a major space power by 2050: Plans include launches, robotic moon bases, and interplanetary manned missions". Popular Science magazine. Retrieved 19 September 2020. The China Academy of Launch Technology (a CASC subsidiary) research and development Director Chen Hongbo told the official Xinhua News Agency that the two-stage spaceplane would be rocket-powered at first, and will be able to fly off a runway at hypersonic speeds to near space.
  15. ^ a b "1st LD-Writethru: China's experimental manned spaceship undergoes tests". Xinhuanet. Beijing. 24 March 2020. Archived from the original on 27 March 2020. Retrieved 19 September 2020. With a length of 8.8 meters and a takeoff weight of 21.6 tonnes, the spaceship will be able to carry six astronauts. It is designed for safety and reliability, and can adapt to multiple tasks.