HELSINKI — China conducted a clandestine first test flight of a reusable suborbital vehicle Friday as a part of development of a reusable space transportation system.
The vehicle launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center Friday and later landed at an airport just over 800 kilometers away at Alxa League in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) announced.
No images nor footage nor further information, such as altitude, flight duration or propulsion systems, were provided. The CASC release stated however that the vehicle uses integrated aviation and space technologies and indicates a vertical takeoff and horizontal landing (VTHL) profile.
The test follows a September 2020 test flight of a “reusable experimental spacecraft”. The spacecraft orbited for days, releasing a small transmitting payload and later deorbited and landed horizontally. The spacecraft is widely believed to be a reusable spaceplane concept, though no images have emerged.
Giant space and defense contractor CASC also developed that vehicle and stated that the new vehicle tested Friday can be used as a first stage of a reusable space transportation system. The implication is that the two vehicles will be combined for a fully reusable space transportation system.
The developments have not come out of the blue. China stated in 2017 that it aimed to test a reusable spaceplane in 2020. The United States Air Force’s X-37B spaceplane is currently carrying out its sixth mission in orbit. Last year Boeing exited the Experimental Spaceplane (XSP) program, also known as the XS-1 program, another VTHL concept.
The new test also follows days after a flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo flew passengers to the edge of space for the first time.
A spaceplane project was included in a 2017 CASC ‘space transportation roadmap’. The plans also included fully reusable launch vehicles and, around 2045, a nuclear-powered shuttle.
Chen Hongbo, from CASC’s China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), told Science and Technology Daily (Chinese) in 2017 that the reusable spacecraft would be capable of carrying both crew and payloads. Chen stated that some vehicles would have the characteristics of both aircraft and spacecraft. CALT was noted as the developer of Friday’s suborbital reusable demonstration vehicle.
Chen stated the aim was full reusability, moving beyond partial reusability of Falcon 9-like launchers. The spaceplane, the development and testing of which is to be completed by 2030, should be capable of being reused more than 20 times.
It will be oriented to orbital altitudes of between 300 to 500 kilometers, meet criteria of being “fast, reliable, and economical,” and meet the needs of military and civilian payloads, and be applicable for space tourism.
The China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), another giant state-owned enterprise, is working on its own spaceplane, named Tengyun. Demonstration and verification of the reusable two-stage-to-orbit Tengyun spacecraft is to be completed by 2025. Tengyun will be a horizontal takeoff, horizontal landing (HTHL) system.
Chinese commercial companies and CASC are also developing reusable rockets
Let’s all acknowledge an ugly truth for a second: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May haven’t exactly been on their best form in recent years. The Grand Tour has had its moments, but all too often, episodes like A Massive Hunt leave us wondering if now’s the time to pull the plug on the operation at long last. Our hopes remain high though, especially following the trailer for the trio’s newest special, Lochdown, a proto-pandemic romp across Scotland.
As revealed in a trailer released Thursday, the Brits embark on a tour of the northernmost land of Great Britain in Malaise Era American cars, ill-suited to the British Isles’ tight roads or gas prices. Clarkson commands a ’70s Lincoln Continental Mark V, Hammond a 1971-1973 Buick Riviera, and May, a 1975 or 1976 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.
These decadent disgraces to the American automotive industry are taken many places they don’t belong, European city roads, through rivers, and for at least one hairy, roly-poly lap of a racetrack. As COVID-19 restrictions come into effect, they’re then forced to sequester themselves away in trailers, which they tow behind (and possibly destroy with) their Malaise machinery.
They also appear to spend some time modifying their cars, as evidenced by a Plymouth Superbird-style wing on Hammond’s Buick—Lord knows why he did that.
Few roads better epitomize the frustrations of Peninsula’s bicycle advocates than El Camino Real, a critical north-south connector that offers both the most direct and, arguably, the most perilous route between Redwood City and Mountain View.
Living up to its moniker as “The King’s Highway,” the original connector between California’s network of Spanish missions is today dominated by cars in just about every Peninsula jurisdiction through which it passes, despite years of talk around the region about converting it into a multimodal “grand boulevard.”
And even as each city has been making its own bike-safety improvements (Palo Alto, for instance, is now completing construction of a bike bridge over U.S. Highway 101 as well as planning for further bike improvements along East Meadow Drive and on the Charleston-Arastradero corridor), these efforts have largely steered clear of El Camino.
A recent traffic analysis commissioned by city managers from Peninsula cities concluded that the 12.5-mile stretch of El Camino between Redwood City and Mountain View has a “high concentration of bicycle collisions” and virtually no bike infrastructure.
But even as it poses a steep challenge for city leaders across the Peninsula, El Camino also represents their greatest hope. During the pandemic, the cities of Redwood City, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Mountain View collaborated on a Peninsula Bikeway study, a survey of bike amenities in each city with recommendations for further improvements to bike connections between the jurisdictions. The study, which was released in November, evaluates three different possibilities for separated bikeways that would stretch along the Peninsula. After considering other routes, including Alma Street and Middlefield Road, the study concluded that a bikeway on El Camino, despite the massive challenges it would entail, “represents the most viable opportunity to implement such a vision and help improve safety and connectivity for all bicycle users.”
The Peninsula Bikeway study is an outgrowth of a partnership that city managers from four cities formed in 2016 to discuss stronger connections between their jurisdictions. Known as the Managers’ Mobility Partnership, the effort initially focused on using existing bikeways and routes to design an interim “low-stress bicycle connection” between the north and sound ends of the segment.
The latest effort is far more ambitious. The new study bills itself as “the first phase of implementing a high-impact bicycle superhighway network in the Bay Area helping residents and workers increase connectivity and safety to jobs and activity centers.” Its goal is to offer a “long-term, high-quality, bikeway suitable for bicyclists of all ages and abilities.”
Unlike the interim route — a meandering path that forces riders to cross El Camino Real once and the railroad tracks twice to avoid hazardous road segments in the various cities — the new bikeway would be direct. All three of the study’s options feature a straighter path between Redwood City and Mountain View. One would rely predominantly on Middlefield Road; another would stay within El Camino Real; the third would run along the Caltrain right-of-way and rely on Alma Street in the
Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler is stepping up the pace of its transition to electric mobility and plans to largely eliminate internal combustion engines before the end of the decade.
“We are switching from EV first to EV only,” a high ranking executive familiar with the plan told Automobilwoche, a sister publication of Automotive News Europe.
This means that every model series will have a full-electric version, while production, sales and structures will be switched to a business without diesel and gasoline engines.
Plug-in hybrids could also cease to play a role after 2030, Automobilwoche reported.
However, there will initially be no firm date for dropping combustion engine cars because they will be in demand after 2030 in some markets, depending on the charging infrastructure, Automobilwoche said.
Daimler CEO Ola Kallenius plans to present details of the plan at a strategy day on July 22, sources told Automobilwoche.
The automaker is expected to announce plans to introduce new platforms for additional electric models as well as its own software operating system in 2024.
Previously, Daimler had said it only expected plug-in hybrids or purely electric vehicles to account for more than 50 percent of passenger car sales by the end of the decade.
Daimler declined to comment when contacted by Automotive News Europe.
The move to all-electric would put Mercedes on a par with other automakers that are shifting to electric-only sales, especially in Europe where tougher CO2 emissions limits are expected to make combustion engine cars unviable.
Opel CEO Michael Lohscheller said during parent Stellantis’s electrification strategy update on Thursday that the automaker will become a pure electric brand in Europe by 2028.
Audi said last month that it will phase out production of combustion engines by early next decade except in China.
The Jaguar brand has said will become all-electric starting in 2025. Volvo and Bentley have said they expect to be electric-only brands by 2030. Ford has said it will only sell full-electric cars in Europe by 2030.
BMW has a more cautious approach. It says it expects half of its sales to be full-electric models by 2030.
Volkswagen brand plans to stop selling combustion engines cars in Europe by 2035 as it shifts to full-electric vehicles, but later in the U.S. and China.