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The Military Space Science

Has China Already Flown a Space Plane? 176

Posted by timothy
from the take-that-running-dog-imperialists dept.
garymortimer writes that according to a report published by China Aviation Journal, "China has successfully launched its own space plane prototype; the news came out shortly after the US Air Force announced the successful test of their advanced X37B space plane. This story has now been deleted. Hong Kong's Ming Pao daily on Tuesday said Shaanxi TV last Saturday quoted acting provincial governor Zhao Zhengyong as saying China has 'succeeded in the test flight of a prototype aircraft that can fly through the atmospheric layer.' Zhao was visiting a state-run aircraft corporation at Xi'an high-tech industrial development zone."
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Has China Already Flown a Space Plane?

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  • Hermes? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:10AM (#35054706) Homepage Journal

    China’s “Hermes” Space Plane: A December 16 photo shows a model of the Shenlong and a new model of the Chinese “Hermes” space plane. China has made significant progress toward the development of an unmanned trans-atmospheric vehicle and a Space Plane. Beijing’s technological advancement has obvious commercial and scientific uses, however the military significance of the plane cannot be denied.

    But Hermes [wikipedia.org] was a European vehicle. Sounds like somebody in China has been cutting and pasting, and has a bad case of the mee toos.

  • Top Gun (Score:5, Funny)

    by WED Fan (911325) <akahigeNO@SPAMtrashmail.net> on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:14AM (#35054714) Homepage Journal
    To prove this, the Chinese news agency used clips from the movie "Airplane II".
  • Yes. I mean no. I mean... I don't know.

    What was the question again?
  • China's space technology is pretty much a verbatim copy of the Russian stuff(and ever since Russia realized what China was doing with technology it lent China to go to space, China hasn't been back there. Not a coincidence in my opinion). So if Russia has a space plane then maybe China has one, otherwise I doubt it.
    • Why do you assume they are incapable of developing anything themselves? Maybe the reason they copy other nation's technology is to catch up in the shorted time possible. That doesn't mean they don't have talented people who can build on those designs.

      Just look at some of the high end audio gear they are producing over there. I have a pair of PK1 headphones which surpass all other in-ear buds IMHO. They do some damn good amps and DACs too. These are not copies of other countries designs, they are original Chinese products.

    • Yes, Russian has... or rather had.
      Not only did they have the Buran shuttle copy which flew once and landed unpiloted, they also has some small delta-wing vehicles launched on expendable rockets in the lat 1970s and early 1980s, built to float and recovered at sea. Either photo spy program or developmental tests for Buran tech or both...not sure.

    • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:27AM (#35055468) Homepage

      China's space technology is pretty much a verbatim copy of the Russian stuff(and ever since Russia realized what China was doing with technology it lent China to go to space, China hasn't been back there. Not a coincidence in my opinion). So if Russia has a space plane then maybe China has one, otherwise I doubt it.

      Just because they've been copying Russia's space technology doesn't mean they're incapable of developing their own. Ever hear the phrase "don't re-invent the wheel"? We IT folks routinely re-use other people's code where we can, and then write our own where we can't?

      Regardless, Russia did have some space plane-ish stuff. The Buran [wikipedia.org] comes to mind...

      • The Buran was Russia's answer to the Space Shuttle ... except they saw it was pointless earlier than the USA and only did the test flight to prove it worked then scrapped it and went back to rockets ....

        They now have more efficient rocket motors, a more reliable launch system, and a 10 year head start on long duration space habitation .... the USA has the Shuttle which it is now (finally) getting rid of ...

        Space planes were the solution to a problem that no longer exists, much like the U2, SR52, and Concor

        • SR71 I think you meantersay
          • by kenrblan (1388237)
            Unless the SR52 was a super secret plane that combined the bombing payload of a B-52 with the high altitude and velocity of the SR-71. Now, that would be an impressive aircraft.
            • that was the YF-2, a weaponized version of the SR-71. Really, it was a fighter/interceptor, not a bomber.

              I used to have a conceptual art poster of it from Lockheed.

          • Yes SR71, My Dyscalculia strikes again ....

            It's was the SR-72 Blackbird, like the U3 Spyplane, F-23 Raptor, F-36 Lightning etc ...

    • The original Soviet atomic bomb was also a direct copy of US one, because that was the fastest way to get started, and time was of utmost importance. That didn't preclude Soviets from developing their own self-sustainable nuclear weapons program from there.

  • Sure this wasn't from a movie as well?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12321492
  • by Anonymous Coward

    "the news came out shortly after the US Air Force announced the successful test of their advanced X37B space plane, which is widely regarded as a next-generation super weapon that is even more dangerous than atomic bomb"

    right guys
    this is definitely a story that needs to be taken seriously!

    • "the news came out shortly after the US Air Force announced the successful test of their advanced X37B space plane, which is widely regarded as a next-generation super weapon that is even more dangerous than atomic bomb"

      right guys this is definitely a story that needs to be taken seriously!

      Which one, the "Chine space plane" one, or the "next-generation super weapon that is even more dangerous than atomic bomb" one?

  • If they manage to militarize space, commerce might begin in full force. Sadly, you don't get the kind of focus you need on something unless it has military applications. If you can get a nation to make a outpost in space, we're free and clear as far as surviving a major disaster.
    • by ArcherB (796902)

      If they manage to militarize space, commerce might begin in full force. Sadly, you don't get the kind of focus you need on something unless it has military applications. If you can get a nation to make a outpost in space, we're free and clear as far as surviving a major disaster.

      An outpost in space is worthless until it becomes self sustaining. If you destroy a country that has space outposts, you will suddenly have those space outposts begging the victorious country for supplies to survive or a ride home.

      Your statement is mostly correct however. It should read:

      If you can get a nation to make a self sustaining outpost in space, we're free and clear as far as surviving a major disaster.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DNS-and-BIND (461968)
        Gosh, we seem to have military bases everywhere that require resupply and are not self sustaining. It's called logistics and it is something that has been part of the art of warfare since the first man picked up the first rock.
        • by vegiVamp (518171)

          True. The logistics of "100km east" are rather less complex than those of "100km up", however. Also, if said disaster is indeed so major as to make space outposts a major asset, it is reasonable to assume that the home nation can no longer provide those logistics.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          I think you missed his point. In order to have a space outpost work in a survival of the species situation after a planet wide disaster, it has to be self sustaining. A regular old dozen cargo flights a day military base isn't going to be much use in that situation, even if it is in space.

          The regular military logistics problem with space bases is that the supply line is necessarily very long and tenuous. It's not that hard to disrupt rocket flights and you wouldn't have to do so very long to put a space

          • by Plekto (1018050)

            But using this as a platform to work your way to a base on the Moon is a viable plan. Oh, wait - China already says that it has plans for exactly this sort of thing.

            We ran out of money and have nothing. We're *so* repeating the collapse of the British Empire that it's not funny any more. At this point, we simply should give up and maybe with the EU we can manage something together. Spending money on something that we can't possibly beat the Chinese in any more when we're about to go belly-up is simply

            • by ceoyoyo (59147)

              A base on the moon is pretty useless militarily, is a far worse logistics problem, and would still need to be self sustaining, which is highly unlikely for a long time, if it were to be any use as a species lifeboat.

              • by Plekto (1018050)

                A base on the Moon is out of range of conventional missiles and weapons, allows for effortless spying, can be easily hardened against an attack, and if you build most of it underground, creating a self-sustaining ecosystem isn't that unreasonable as there's tons of room. Also, we are finding out that aside from the radiation and micro-meteorite blasted "eggshell" exterior layer, the Moon is pretty much normal rock and dirt underneath. There's even water and it appears to also have a small internal heat so

                • by ceoyoyo (59147)

                  If you can get people to the moon you can certainly send a missile there. If someone built a military base on the moon it wouldn't take long before everyone else built missiles that could hit it. And nukes aren't such a big deal on the moon either.

                  But supposing you did build a base on the moon. If it's supposed to be a military base it's pretty much useless because, as you point out, it's a long way away. There's nothing like launching a nuclear strike and giving your enemy three days to notice and reta

                  • by Plekto (1018050)

                    Yet, suppose that you dug out a several mile cavern (or found a large set of caverns)? You simply can't do that in space. If there's heat, water, and light that we add, it being self-sustaining becomes much easier. There are plenty of examples of self-sustaining ecosystems on Earth that can be found in caves. Our idiocy is trying to build it all in a small sealed dome. Of course if you could make it several miles across it would be easier to accomplish.

                    Yes, it could be hit by a missile, but it also wou

            • But the fall of the British empire lead to America's rise.
              America's rise got man on the moon so...
              What is China's rise going to give us? Something equally awesome hopefully.

              And let's face it the UK isn't doing too bad at the moment, it might not be a world leader anymore, but being an also-ran isn't too bad...

        • Gosh, we seem to have military bases everywhere that require resupply and are not self sustaining. It's called logistics and it is something that has been part of the art of warfare since the first man picked up the first rock.

          Don't you mean: "since the first man picked up a couple of rocks and then climbed onto a really big rock."

      • by cyn1c77 (928549)

        An outpost in space is worthless until it becomes self sustaining. If you destroy a country that has space outposts, you will suddenly have those space outposts begging the victorious country for supplies to survive or a ride home.

        You need to read about the concept of mutually-assured destruction.

      • China can make a self sustaining moonbase.

        They will just keep shipping dissidents up there until an atmosphere forms.

  • Not knowing how independant the Chinese press is from the Chinese government - has anyone verified this independantly? How about any photos (besides from the plastic model in the article)?
  • by horza (87255) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:36AM (#35054800) Homepage

    They seem to have deleted any videos. Perhaps this is linked to the fact when you do a frame capture and zoom in, through the cockpit window you can see Tom Cruise giving the bird?

    Phillip.

  • Shuttle Replacement (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ticklish2day (575989)
    Do these space planes have the technology to be a viable space shuttle replacement?
    • No, they are too small to carry a significant payload or people, and are designed to operate right at the edge of the atmosphere in a very low orbit.
  • Most of those 'Father and son sent camera into space with a balloon' are not in space. And if it explodes does it go all Top Gun too?
  • by arbiter1 (1204146) on Monday January 31, 2011 @06:42AM (#35054828)
    "A Chinese state news broadcaster has apparently been caught passing off dogfight footage from the Hollywood movie “Top Gun” as footage of China’s latest fighter jet destroying a target drone in a live fire exercise." ^ when they get busted trying that how could believe anything from their news agencies.
    • Uhh...the Western media has been busted many, many times doing the same thing. All the big names: CNN, AP, NYT, you name it. It's just that, surprisingly, stories like this aren't given much publicity in...the Western media.
      • It happens a lot more than you think. Very often when reporters interview someone, take photos, or take in news materials from another party - the materials on their hand aren't sufficient for them to tell a good story. In that case they'd have to improvise by e.g. adding their own interpretations to make the story complete, and by extension they may add in their own materials as well.

        What happened at CCTV can be something like this.. reporter got military footage on flying fighter planes, but no explosio
    • By the same token, Fox News tried to show a packed rally for Glenn Beck, and it became obvious that the footage was from different events with different weather conditions.

      So China is as guilty as any other news organization. I don't believe much coming out of Fox, MsNbc, Cnn, or any other news agency that believes that ratings are more important than truth.

      • by poity (465672)

        What was the point of your comment really? The worst of our media outlets do it therefor nothing needs to be said about this story? In a story about Chinese media's claims to their supposed leaps in space technology, someone brings up Chinese media's most recent fakes as a way of framing the conversation. As dubious as Fox and CNN are, they still have nothing to do with this story.
        Slashdot: Off-topic comments rated off-topic except comments critical of anything from the US, then it doesn't matter how off-to

  • They have been working on this for a while. I'll bet they don't have an X37B though. I find the quote at the bottom of the page a bit humorous though: "Man is a military animal, glories in gunpowder, and loves parade." P.J. Bailey. Can you say secret military satellite
  • the news came out shortly after the US Air Force announced the successful test of their advanced X37B space plane, which is widely regarded as a next-generation super weapon that is even more dangerous than atomic bomb

    Whaaa? How so? If it was dropping a nuke I could see it being dangerous, but how is it more dangerous on its own? Covert information gathering?

    • by Vectormatic (1759674) on Monday January 31, 2011 @09:09AM (#35055364)

      it can server as an orbital weapons platform, at which point a simple metal bar suddenly becomes an very dangerous high energy kinetic weapon

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_bombardment [wikipedia.org]

      • by Bigbutt (65939)

        Yea. I'm reading Footfall again and that's what the Snouts were using. Essentially a crowbar with a maneuverable tail fin and a mini-brain to id and make subtle changes in direction.

        [John]

      • <anecdotal evidence>

        I heard that that particular project was never really taken very seriously inside the military. I mean, we explore everything, and that was just another option to explore.

        </anecdotal evidence>

        The obvious logistical problem of putting a really freakin' heavy hunk of metal up in space aside (and it has to be big enough to have something left when it makes it through the atmosphere at high velocity (why not slow it down? well, that would defeat the purpose, now wouldn't it?))

        • the wiki link suggests 25 foot accuracy, and the X37B already has demonstrated ability to change its orbit multiple times. The upside of orbital bombardment would be that if you have a platform over target, time to impact is just a few minutes.

          Also, i think an X37B is hardly a slow moving, easy to hit target, you would need a kill-vehicle (missile, heavy metal rod etc..) capable of reaching orbit, and it would need to cope with active avoidance/countermeasures from the target.

          I still agree that it is a bit

  • Their claims are belied by the fact that the footage is taken from 2001 A Space Odyssey.

  • demonstration video doesn't show Bruce Willis in it!
  • "All armies prefer high ground to low and sunny places to dark." - Sun Tzu. Space is the ultimate high ground, it's just a matter of time.
    • Re:The Art Of War (Score:4, Insightful)

      by tomhudson (43916) <`moc.nosduh-arab ... `nosduh.arabrab'> on Monday January 31, 2011 @10:09AM (#35055804) Journal

      "All armies prefer high ground to low and sunny places to dark." - Sun Tzu. Space is the ultimate high ground, it's just a matter of time.

      And all armies can be beaten by much smaller forces of guerillas who prefer the low and dark places where the armies can't operate.

      Think of the tunnel rats in Viet nam, etc.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        We may take it then that an army without its baggage train is lost; without provisions it is lost; without bases of supply it is lost. - Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

        • As it turns out, those tunnels in Vietnam were both supply lines and bases for said guerrillas.
          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            Ha, sorry, I actually meant to reply to the guy you replied to.

            Guerrillas do very well with supply lines even without tunnels, because they can usually depend on at least some of the populace to help out, and they're independent and sparse enough to make foraging practical. Space battle stations, not so much.

            Even if you do occupy the "high ground" it's not worth much if the tunnel rats or a conventional military shoot down your supply rockets or bomb the launch facilities. Mountaintops are high ground too

    • For some reason my brain ended your Sun Tzu quote with Ricardo Montalbán saying, "It is very sunny... in spaaaaaaaace...."

  • Why was it pulled? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by _merlin (160982) on Monday January 31, 2011 @07:07AM (#35054926) Homepage Journal

    I doubt they've flown it. They probably have a prototype they plan to fly, and a pre-written press release to print the moment it flies. They accidentally published it early, and had to pull it. Similar things have happened with other parts of various space programs.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    yes, no, maybe

    next question

  • from TFA:

    even more dangerous than atomic bomb

    How is a space plane more dangerous than the atomic bomb?

  • "...the US Air Force announced the successful test of their advanced X37B space plane, which is widely regarded as a next-generation super weapon that is even more dangerous than atomic bomb."

    Strictly speaking, the X-37B doesn't do much of anything in and of itself other than go round and round the Earth, so I'm not sure the above is exactly an apples to apples comparison.

  • by Vandil X (636030) on Monday January 31, 2011 @07:37AM (#35055026)
    The Chinese are actively developing their LEO space functionality. The US's own Mercury and Gemini astronauts were farmed from test pilots of extremely high altitude planes. Why wouldn't the Chinese do the same thing (high altitude planes) as part of developing their space science/talent?
  • Sure, why not? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Vandil X (636030)
    China is actively developing their space program. When the US was doing this in the 50s and 60s, we used very high-altitude planes and farmed our Mercury and Gemini astronauts from the pilots of those planes. Why wouldn't the Chinese do the same thing as part of their space program evolution?
  • The answer to this question depends on what US spaceplane plans the Chinese have been able to either,
    a) Obtain via espionage
    b) Obtain via bribery/coercion
    c) Obtain as part of a trade deal
    d) Outright purchase
    from designers in the US.

    Basically my point is, like everything else nowadays, this plane was most likely designed in California, but built in Shanghai.

    • by arisvega (1414195)

      you missed e) they have actually built one themselves.

      How can you underestimate 1.4e9 people like this? There are bound to be several brilliant engineers among them.

      Even so, what if they start using it to

      a) spy on you,

      b) knock down your birds,

      c) bomb you, or

      d) all of the above,

      what are you going to do, start crying out 'doesn't count', 'fake' and 'I'll sue you for copyright'? See how ridiculous this sounds?

      Be more responsible, don't underestimate people.

      • by arivanov (12034)

        Because they think positively as a matter of a 2000+ year tradition. Read Confucius and Kuhn before making such a comment for crying out loud.

        Positive thinking innovative engineering and revolutionary science does not make.

        You must think negatively and strongly dislike something which is in use today to produce something better for tomorrow. If you think positively about what you have today, you have no reason to make your brain look for something better. In fact as long as you continue thinking positively

  • With trillions owing in US Government bonds, what sort of space program could you build with that ?, airport scanners and the TSA are the entry point for doods like Sir Richard to get his space flights on Galactic going from the US.... what would China charge for a Space flight ?, can you export it ? I'm sure Egypt would agree with China doing a few more sorties to get the Stargate back.
  • Well duh, where do they think our space plane was built?
  • From TFA: "...widely regarded as a next-generation super weapon that is even more dangerous than atomic bomb." Could anyone please explain that? I haven't read anything similar before.
  • Credible (Score:4, Informative)

    by Konster (252488) on Monday January 31, 2011 @07:58AM (#35055094)
  • Following their recent pictures of their J-10 fighter aircraft here are the pictures of their prototype space craft:
    http://www.theforce.net/swtc/Pix/given/rb/tyd-door.jpg [theforce.net]

  • Why not just hand China the keys to manned spaceflight on a plate and be done with it?

    • Why not just hand China the keys to manned spaceflight on a plate and be done with it?

      Or even better, trade it for absolving the US debt.

    • Because compared to the current state of the U.S. space industry, China is decades behind. And if you don't believe that, then you've been reading too many sensationalist headlines. As someone who has been actively watching space industry jobs worldwide I can guarantee you that nobody, not even China, is employing as many folks in a Space industry as the U.S. government and various U.S. based commercial companies. China may be kicking our ass economically, but when it comes to space, we Americans are still
  • ...I really have to wonder if this Chinese space plane has X37B on the fuselage but Krylon-ed over with primer.

  • In the 1960's the US military-industrial complex consistently reported that the US was suffering a "Missile Gap" with the USSR claiming, falsely, that the US had less offensive nuclear armed missile capability. I wonder who has the most to gain from this type of report.
    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      Question: Wasn't this found out to be the fact after the cold war? From my understanding USSR would make outrageous claims and the US treated it as fact, and would then build something.
  • by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:20AM (#35055182)
    Space planes are not exactly stealthy; heat emissions, contrails, etc., make them show up really clearly. Unless China managed to also make it the stealthiest plane ever designed, we'd know about it.
    • That's kind of what I was thinking. We pay attention to all of China's launch facilities (hell, you can read about every one of their launches on most space websites). You can't exactly keep a rocket launch under wraps. To the best of my knowledge, we have known well ahead of time which payloads were launched on which Chinese boosters. So, I would be really surprised if they somehow concealed an entire launch and/or payload from but the U.S. government and the very active space enthusiast news agencies.
  • Google cache? (Score:4, Informative)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@NOSPAM.xmsnet.nl> on Monday January 31, 2011 @08:24AM (#35055194)

    If the original news articles were spidered before deletion, the information may still exist. I don't speak Chinese so I can't do much to try and find it though.

    this article [sinobeat.info] has more info incl 2 images.

  • "Flying" a "space plane" is a meaningless accomplishment, even if it happened.

    It takes a spitload of details, gotten exactly right, to make a safe, practical, reliable aerospace gadget.

    The history of development of every thing that zooms has been fraught with a long if not also steep learning curve.
    It took many tries for the USA to get the X-15 working smoothly.
    Look up how many years the C-5A, C141, B-58, Atlas, B-1, and Patriot were in "development". Count up how many of those had to go back to the factor

  • The US flew lots of space plane prototypes. Most of the X-plane series way back when. We'd strap them to a B-52 and drop them. Not hard to do compared to sending them to orbit.

    As a matter of fact, Branson is doing the same thing privately.

    • by stiggle (649614)

      US X designation is just "experimental" rather than "space plane" so the X-35 became the F-35.

      Test flights - mean just that. A flight to test various systems.

      So the Chinese space planes successful test flight just means they've dropped it from a bomber and its flight characteristics have been tested and it landed. No space re-entry just yet.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Actually a few of the X-Planes where "Space planes" in any real sense. The X-2 and the X-15 could possibly qualify and long the X-24. The X series explored everything from extreme high speeds, variable geometry wings, vertical take off, super maneuverability, to VSTOL. That being said the Shuttle is a "space plane" and it a product of late 60s to early 70's technology. So China I guess maybe could have started work on one... Welcome to 1969 China at least they will have better avionics than we did in the 70

  • .... believe it when you see it at an international airshow held in an credible country. Otherwise ...

"The medium is the message." -- Marshall McLuhan

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