Shenlong (spacecraft)

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Shenlong
Role Spaceplane
National origin China
First flight 11 December 2007 (drop tests)
Status Testing
Primary user People's Liberation Army

Shenlong (simplified Chinese: 神龙; traditional Chinese: 神龍; pinyin: shén lóng; literally: "divine dragon") is a proposed Chinese robotic spaceplane that is similar to the American Boeing X-37.[1] Only a few pictures[2] have appeared since it was revealed in late 2007, but it appears to be causing some consternation[3] to experts[4] in the Western World.

Shenlong Test Platform[edit]

The latest academic models shown in 2000, reveal a delta winged spaceplane with a single vertical stabilizer, equipped with three high-expansion engines. Presuming a seating arrangement of two crew members siting side-by-side in the cockpit, dimensions could be very roughly estimated as a wingspan of 8 m, a length of 12 m and a total mass of 12 tonnes. This is within the payload capability of the Chinese CZ-2E(A) or Type A launch vehicles.[citation needed]

Shenlong Space Plane[edit]

Images of an aerodynamic scaled model, ready to be launched from under the fuselage of a H-6K bomber, were first published in the Chinese media on 11 December 2007. Code named Project 863-706, the Chinese name of this spacecraft was revealed as "Shenlong Space Plane" (神龙空天飞机). These images, possibly taken in late 2005, show the vehicle's black reentry heat shielding, indicating a reusable design, and its engine assembly.[5] First sub-orbital flight of the Shenlong reportedly took place on 8 January 2011.[6]

It has been proposed that the vehicle is fitted with a Russian-designed D-30K turbofan engine, which would likely not provide enough power to reach Low Earth orbit. A larger Shenlong model, however, would be capable of carrying a payload to orbit. Analysts had previously reported on a late 2006 Chinese test flight of what is believed to be a scramjet demonstrator, possibly related to the Shenlong vehicle.[5]

Earlier, images of the High-enthalpy Shock Waves Laboratory wind tunnel of the CAS Key Laboratory of high-temperature gas dynamics (LHD) were published in the Chinese media. Test with speed up to Mach 20 where reached around 2001.[7]

As of 2007, the CAS academician Zhuang Fenggan (莊逢甘) said that a first test flight of the spaceplane would be conducted during the "Eleventh Five-Year Plan", meaning from 2006 to 2010.[8][dated info]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Shenlong Space Plane: China's Answer To U.S. X-37B Drone?"
  2. ^ "Shenlong Space Plane Advances China’s Military Space Potential". International Assessment and Strategy Center. 
  3. ^ "And Races Into Space". StrategyCenter.net. 
  4. ^ "Invoking China to keep the shuttle alive". Space Politics. 
  5. ^ a b "中国"神龙"飞行器首度曝光 身世扑朔迷离". SOHU.com. 2008-01-11. Retrieved 2008-04-13. 
  6. ^ "Shenlong ‘Divine Dragon’ Takes Flight: Is China developing its first spaceplane?". China Signpost. 2012-05-04. Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  7. ^ "氢氧爆轰驱动激波高焓风洞". 中国科学院高温气体动力学重点实验室. 2005-03-17. Retrieved 2008-04-16. 
  8. ^ "國產空天飛機 3年內試飛". 香港文匯報. 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2008-04-16.