Beijing, Sep 4 (efe-epa).- China on Friday launched a reusable experimental spacecraft, official media reported, following months of preparations shrouded in secrecy.
Official Xinhua news agency said in a brief dispatch that the launch was successfully carried out with a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan space center in northwest China.
“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,” the state-run wire service reported.
Friday’s launch was the 14th mission of the Long March-2F carrier rocket, it said.
Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said a copy of an official memo circulating on social media warned staff and visitors to the launch site not to film or discuss the lift-off online.
The Post cited military sources confirming the authenticity of the circular.
“All units should strengthen personnel security education and personnel management during missions to ensure that there is no leakage of secrets,” the memo noted.
The newspaper quoted an unnamed military source as saying: “There are many firsts in this launch. The spacecraft is new, the launch method is also different. That’s why we need to make sure there is extra security.”
The source, according to SCMP, declined to give more details about the launch mission or the spacecraft but hinted that it is similar to the US X-37B, an unmanned space vehicle capable of returning to Earth that has so far has carried out four missions to take secret payloads on long-duration flights in Earth orbit.
In recent years, China has boosted its space projects, becoming the first country to land with a probe on the far side of the Moon in January 2019.
The Asian giant completed the satellite network of its BeiDou Navigation System that can potentially rival the US Global Positioning System (GPS) in providing positioning services to transportation, emergency medical rescue, and city planning and management areas.
China also launched its first unmanned mission to Mars, Tianwen-1, from Hainan in July.
According to the country’s state agency, its spacecraft, including an orbiter, lander, and rover, was well on its way to the red planet. EFE-EPA