China space plane makes its first flight
China has been developing several projects of space planes, both for civil and military use. The latest one has been tested in the Gobi desert of Mongolia in February 2018. Developed by China Aerodynamics Research and Development Center (CARDC), it gave back satisfying results.
The unmanned plane, a scaled-down model, managed to reach five times the speed of sound and landed back precisely where it was expected, according to a CARDC.
Like several other Chinese space plane projects, the objective is double: those planes are developed to penetrate through enemy defense systems, but also to be used as low-orbit hypersonic passenger planes. They could also be used to launch space crafts or retrieve satellites.
The conscious objective is to compete with the SpaceX program. The use of airplanes instead of rockets would make that kind of transportation more attractive to the civilian public.
A similar project is developed in the United States by Boeing. Named XS-1, the objective is to create a plane that would be able to put a load of 1.8 ton into low orbit. It should be cost-efficient with less than 5 million US$ per launch and should be able to launch satellites daily for 10 days. Unlike the Chinese models, it should be a hybrid of a rocket and plane, at it would launch vertically but land horizontally like the former NASA space shuttle. The first flights are expected by 2020.