On the evening of 4 August, a Chanjung-2F rocket with its mission kept secret took off from the Jiuquan launch site. The launch is almost certainly part of a space mission that China began with its first and unexpected flight in September 2020, in which case the spacecraft remained in orbit for two days and then returned to a Chinese military base in Inner Mongolia.
As in the case of the last mission, there are no photographs or information on the reusable machine other than the confirmation of its existence through the official print body China Space News, and the short press release also reports that the spacecraft will carry out undeclared "orbiting" activities.
The landing site is likely to be the same as in the first flight, since the trajectory on which Changjeng-2F is flying is almost identical to the previous one. In addition, several movements have been observed in the last few days at the proposed landing site, thanks to satellite imagery.
In view of the great secrecy, most observers believe that this space aircraft is part of a military-related programme, especially in view of the great interest with which China is considering hypersonic missiles, in which the spacecraft can certainly contribute.
The most common view among military analysts is that the Chinese apparatus is similar to the American X-37B. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the last known large-scale model of China's Shenlong spacecraft was very similar to that of the United States. The image refers to 2006 when the large-scale Shenlong model was photographed on the wing of the H-6 bomber.
Extension of military base in Internal Mongolia
One of the main events of September 2020 is the Chinese military base, located near the Lop Noor nuclear test site in Inner Mongolia, where a runway longer than 5 kilometres was built in 2016, far beyond the normal use of aircraft; since then, the base has not attracted much media attention until the launch of the first spacecraft.
The runway was an important clue about the existence of a spaceship on the day of the first launch. The runway became an important key to the existence of the spacecraft on the day of the first launch. Its position was perfectly parallel to the orbit described by the Changzhen-2F. Special attention was then paid to OSINT, an analytical intelligence centre that uses open sources to analyse these events. In this case, commercial satellite imagery, which revealed something about the events behind them.
In particular, Planet's photo probably captured the first spacecraft in the hours immediately following its landing on September 6, 2020, but the low clearance did not allow accurate identification of its ownership, although it showed unusual activity on the runway.
In the months following the landing of the first spacecraft, the military base was significantly expanded around the runway, as was revealed to the American newspaper NPR by means of satellite photographs from the Maxar satellite.
China ' s interest in space aircraft has not emerged recently; since the mid-1980s, Beijing has repeatedly and alternately supported the development of a space aircraft; however, these projects have often proved to be too ambitious or impractical for a young Chinese aerospace industry; it must be recognized that the task of creating a space aircraft is so complex that only two countries have successfully developed such tools: the United States and the Soviet Union.
China's first attempt to create a Chinese cosmoplane was project 863-204, in which the Communist Party of China intended to build its first spaceship for the delivery of human beings into space. The Chinese engineers analysed 11 proposals, which were later reduced to six for the final project. Of these six, four were very different space planes, ranging from machines similar to the American Shuttle to some more futuristic even by today's standards. Later, Beijing abandoned a space plane in favour of a more classical capsule, which we now know as Shenzhou.
The second phase of the Chinese space plane began in 2006, when CALT published a road map describing the steps taken to build an operational spacecraft for 15 years, the same year the first image of the previously mentioned Shenlong was taken, the latest being lost in 2012, when it carried out a series of suborbital tests, and it is therefore possible that today ' s Chinese space aircraft is a direct development, if not by the new Shenlong.