While the world grapples with the Coronavirus pandemic, China progresses with its space program as its new reusable human-rated spaceship landed in China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region at 0549 GMT on Friday, as per international reports. The spaceflight wrapped up its a three-day unpiloted orbital test flight, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASTC). The new spacecraft is designed to eventually replace China’s Shenzhou spacecraft to ferry astronauts to a space station in Earth orbit.
The test spacecraft lifted off Tuesday on Long March 5B rocket - which is China’s most powerful launch vehicle. After separating from the Long March 5B rocket, the crew capsule raised its altitude in a series of seven maneuvers this week, ultimately reaching an elliptical orbit ranging as far as 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) from Earth, according to Chinese space officials. The payloads on the spacecraft included power-generating solar panels, a communications antenna to send and receive data from ground controllers.
The CASTC said the spacecraft spent more than 2 days and 19 hours in orbit. The capsule completed a deorbit burn using its braking rockets at 0422 GMT (12:22 a.m. EDT) Friday, then jettisoned its service module at 0533 GMT (1:33 a.m. EDT) to burn up during re-entry. The crew module entered the atmosphere at more than 9 kmph, deploying two drogue parachutes and three main chutes, with six airbags to soften the touchdown.
China is working on a permanent orbiting station after being excluded from the International Space Station, largely because of U.S. objections. It plans four crewed and four cargo missions to finish a permanent space station within about two years. China has already achieved a big milestone by landing a spacecraft on the far side of the moon last year and plans to send a lander and rover to Mars. Now, it plans to complete its space station by 2022.