China is in the spaceplane club now. The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation — the country’s main space contractor — had been toying with the idea of a spacecraft for the last five years, and on September 4 launched an experimental reusable spaceplane on a two-day orbital mission.
The first scaled-down model of a spaceplane was tested in February 2018 which was confirmed by scientists Ye Youda and Liu Gang. The spaceplane can be used for both civil and military purposes. It can carry a payload that can either be placed in the space orbit or delivered to the Earth’s surface as and when required.
Satellite image shows radar at Chinese secret airstrip near Lopnur (Photo Credits: India Today
There are two large launch pads with one 15m X 30m and another 20m X 20m. There is a small antennae field of 15m X 15m size and solar panels for electricity supply to the facility.
There are three staff barracks and a large tall hangar of 25m X 50m size possibly for temporary storage of test articles.
Satellite image shows Chinese secret airstrip near Lopnur (Photo Credits: India Today
Some monitoring equipment has also been noticed at various places on this massive airfield. There are some buildings and some dugouts possibly for monitoring equipment to be placed during launch and landing.
A possible meteorological radar is visible at the north-eastern side of the main runway halfway down the overshoot.
(Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd is a consultant for India Today. A satellite imagery analyst, he served in the Indian Army for over 33 years