A reusable uncrewed space vehicle returned to Earth on Monday morning after spending 276 days in orbit, according to a media report.

There is not much information about the space vehicle as China’s space authorities have not released any pictures or technical data, and experts suspect it could be used to gather intelligence, South China Morning Post reported.

The reusable experimental spacecraft was launched with a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan satellite center in Inner Mongolia in 2020.

Space defense contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said the classified mission is a “complete success” and “marks an important breakthrough” in China’s research into the technology.

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The reusable spacecraft “will provide a more convenient and cost-effective way for peaceful use of space”, the company was quoted as saying.

The spacecraft resembles the US Air Force’s Boeing X-37B, Xinhua news agency had reported earlier.

The X-37B is an unmanned space plane that operates like a smaller version of the Space Shuttle, which is launched by a rocket and cruises back to Earth for a runway landing. It has flown four classified missions to date, carrying secret payloads on long-duration flights in Earth orbit.

According to some experts, the Chinese craft could be equipped with advanced imaging and sensing equipment to gather intelligence on potential targets or monitor sensitive areas of interest, the report said.

Another potential use is the deployment of small satellites or other payloads into orbit. This could include communications satellites, navigation systems, or other types of sensors that could be used for military or government purposes.

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