China is developing a reusable space plane that will be able to take off from a conventional runway and capable of taking people into space.
The aircraft is being designed to transport passengers into near space and also to deliver astronauts and supplies to China’s new space station, China Central Television reported Thursday.
"The project is in the primary stages of development," Zhang Hongwen, head of the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation was quoted as saying by China.org.
Unlike Boeing X-37, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), the Chinese Space plane can take-off from a conventional runway.
The X-37 is an uncrewed spacecraft. It is boosted into space by a launch vehicle, then re-enters Earth's atmosphere and lands as a space plane.
The progress is being made on the development of solar-powered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that can set up a local area network (LAN) by flying at altitudes between 20 and 100 kms. The UAVs would be able to fly perpetually due to their ability to absorb sunshine above the level of clouds, would be used for remote image sensing and meteorological observation, Zhang added.
"The drones are due to be tested before the end of this year," said Zhang.