China’s space program dropped a surprising – and mysterious – object into Earth orbit, prompting speculation about the nature of the payload.
China launched its Long March 2F rocket on Aug. 4, a spaceplane that has been in orbit for about three months. SpaceNews reports. Its trajectory has been closely associated with an unknown payload. The US Space Force initially tracked the object near the spaceplane, after which Space-Track.org, a database of orbital objects, logged an entry for it on Oct. 21.
The origins of the package are still unknown, and China has yet to comment on it. Harvard University astronomer Jonathan McDowell speculated on this on Twitter it could be a service module, which may have previously contained fuel or supplies for the spaceplane, but is now garbage to be incinerated in Earth’s atmosphere. This would also mean that the spacecraft itself is ready to de-orbit and land back on solid ground.
Or the object could also be some kind of satellite to monitor the space plane’s mission or serve some other purpose. There is a very unlikely, but still remote possibility that the object is an anti-satellite weapon or some other nefarious device – meaning China is poised to escalate the burgeoning theater of space warfare.
Whatever the object, it only adds to the mystery and mystery that is China’s spaceplane program, which Beijing has kept top secret since it was first launched in 2020. While that first mission only lasted two days, this last one lasted more than 90 days. The second launch also came as a bit of a surprise, as China only said it would launch a secret payload that later turned out to be a test of its reusable spaceplane.
So little is known about what the satellite might be – or even what the spaceplane is made of. What is certain is that China’s continued efforts to keep its space projects tight to the vest is a clear sign that nations are taking space very, very seriously. Not only does it represent the future of humanity’s ambitions to colonize other planets, but it also represents a very real power on Earth.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/chinas-shadowy-spaceplane-drops-mystery-package-in-orbit?source=articles&via=rss China’s shadowy spaceplane drops mysterious package in orbit