A spaceplane is an aerospace vehicle that operates as an aircraft in Earth’s atmosphere, as well as a spacecraft when it is in space. It combines features of an aircraft and a spacecraft, which can be thought of as an aircraft that can endure and maneuver in the vacuum of space or likewise a spacecraft that can fly like an airplane. Typically, it takes the form of a spacecraft equipped with wings, although lifting bodies have been designed and tested as well. The propulsion to reach space may be purely rocket based or may use the assistance of airbreathing jet engines. The spaceflight is then followed by an unpowered glide return to landing.
What new plane does China have up its sleeve ?
China is aiming to revolutionize space travel by developing an ambitious new spaceplane/spacecraft hybrid.
Currently being worked on by The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CATSC), the new vehicle will be capable of not only taking off and landing vertically on a runway, but will also have the ability to fly in to orbit using a powerful set of onboard rocket motors.
Equipped with a ramjet engine as well as either a turbofan or turbojet engine, the spacecraft will be reusable like NASA’s old space shuttles and could usher in a whole new era of space travel.
The news follows on from reports that Russia is also said to be building what it calls a “combined aircraft engine” for its PAK-DA strategic bomber which would be able to launch nukes from space.
It looks like the skies are likely to become a lot more crowded over the coming decades.