China is developing a new type of spy satellite using ghost imaging technology, South China Morning Post informs. According to the developers, the probe will be able to catch “invisible” bombers like the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit. A prototype is planned to be completed by 2020 and its testing in space should be conducted before 2025.

The ghost imaging satellite would have two cameras. One camera would aim at the targeted area of interest with a bucket-like, single pixel sensor, while the other one measures variations in a wider field of light across the environment.

The target could be illuminated by almost any light source. Gong Wenlin, research director at the Key Laboratory for Quantum Optics, whose team is building the prototype, claimed that darkness, cloud, haze and other negative elements impairing visibility would no longer matter.

“A ghost imaging satellite will reveal more details than the most advanced radar satellite,” South China Morning Post quoted the researcher.

According to Gong Wenlin, the ghost camera could also identify the physical nature and chemical composition of a target. So the military would be able to distinguish fake fighter jets on display in an airfield or missile launchers hidden under camouflage canopy.

The satellite's quantum sensor would make it possible to identify and track targets that are currently invisible from space, such as stealth bombers taking off at night. Thus, the researchers emphasize that the ghost spy satellite is being developed as a tool for identifying the US B-2s stealth bombers.  

The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit operated by the US is the world's only stealth bomber in service able to deliver a strategic strike on an enemy. It has stealthy capabilities to avoid detection and interception throughout missions. Its low observability provides a greater freedom of action at high altitudes, thus increasing both range and field of view for onboard sensors.

Its upgraded version – B-21 Radar, is under development and is expected to enter combat service by 2025. It is to be a very long-range, stealth strategic bomber for the US Air Force, which would be capable of delivering conventional or thermonuclear weapons.