|A close-up of China's robotic Shenlong space plane prototype tucked beneath a Chinese H-6 bomber for glide testing in December 2007. (Source Chinese Internet)|
Story By Leonard David, Space.com
As the next secretive flight of the U.S. Air Force's robotic X-37B mini-shuttle draws closer, analysts are keeping a close eye on China’s own potential space plane, the Shenlong.
Last year several Chinese media outlets reported a test flight of the Shenlong space plane that apparently included its airdrop from an H-6 bomber. But the nature of the Shenlong project's testing, as well as what the robot vehicle truly represents, remains sketchy.
Several China watchers in the U.S. have taken a stab at what the Shenlong (Mandarin for "Divine Dragon) might mean, with some experts conjecturing that the craft is simply a tit-for-tat response to the unmanned X-37B space plane.
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|This December 2007 image shows China's robotic Shenlong space plane prototype carried by an H-6 bomber during testing.(Source Chinese Internet)|