China reportedly had a successful test launch of its mysterious new reusable spacecraft last week. The South China Morning Post reports the extreme secrecy around the launch is to protect and cushion cutting-edge technology, and the newspaper shares a source on the scene who suggests the new craft is something like the U.S.’s experimental X-37B spaceplane, shown above.
✈ You like badass spaceplanes. So do we. Let’s nerd out over them together.
China has revved up its space game in the last decade. Just this year, the country announced an engine design that could power a reusable spacecraft and launched its first rover to Mars. And while China is famously secretive about all of its technology, when it comes to spacecraft and defense technology, it’s certainly not alone.
Secrecy helps to keep technology proprietary, of course, but it also helps to avoid public embarrassment if prototypes fail in front of the press. Failure and iteration are critical to scientific inquiry, but often harder for the public—and funds-allocating government bodies—to contextualize.