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 (Chinese: 神龙; 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 “神龙”空天飞机 or "Shenlong Space Plane", meaning Divine Dragon in Mandarin. 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.