China's reusable space plane has returned to Earth after nearly a year in orbit, a major milestone for the country's space program.
The space plane, which is officially known as the Shijian 21, was launched in August 2022 and spent 307 days in orbit. During that time, it carried out a number of tests of its reusable technologies, including its ability to re-enter the atmosphere and land safely.
The Shijian 21 is similar in design to the US Air Force's X-37B, a secretive space plane that has been used for a variety of missions, including intelligence gathering and space surveillance.
The Shijian 21 is about the size of a Boeing 737 and is believed to be capable of carrying a payload of up to 10 tons.
The return of the Shijian 21 is a major step forward for China's space program and demonstrates the country's growing capabilities in reusable spaceflight. It also raises questions about the space plane's intended purpose.
Some experts believe that the Shijian 21 could be used for a variety of missions, including carrying out space repairs, deploying satellites, or even conducting military operations. However, China has not released any information about the space plane's specific capabilities or missions.