Last year, China launched a reusable space plane which spent a total of 276 days in orbit around our planet. The space plane recently landed, no doubt delivering tons of data to the state-run Chinese Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The CASC has provided no details about what the plane was up to, but new data from LeoLabs suggests it docked with an unknown object multiple times.
The unknown object in question was labeled Object J and is believed to be a satellite or some other type of object which was released from the space plane during its journey. LeoLabs, which specializes in tracking satellites and space debris around Earth, says that it observed several “large maneuvers raising the objects altitude” and repeated docking with Object J.
Overall, LeoLabs says it believes that the reusable Chinese space plane must have docked at least two, possibly three times with Object J. The exact reasoning for docking the spacecraft with Object J is unknown. And as I noted above, China has yet to reveal anything about what it was trying to accomplish with the space plane.
China has steadily been making big pushes into space, with plans to operate out of its own space station and build on the Moon. Last year, a Chinese Martian rover made its way across the surface of Mars, looking for scientific data. We now know that it may have discovered evidence of water in Martian dunes, but aside from that, China plays things close to the chest.
Obviously, This Chinese reusable space plane isn’t the only one out there. However, the fact that the country is keeping its operations so secretive suggests to many that it may be focused on military operations, which is concerning given the current state of affairs around the world right now.