Enlarge / Chinese Premier Li Keqiang inspects the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation in Beijing on April 27, 2017. (credit: Xinhua/Xie Huanchi via Getty Images)
There have been rumors about China’s development of a spaceplane for the better part of a decade, but now the vehicle has a tentative launch date.

According to a statement from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, published by the Chinese state news service Xinhua, the reusable spacecraft will launch in 2020.
Should Chinese scientists and engineers deliver on their promises, some of the technology promised by the new spaceplane will be downright futuristic.

Based on various reports, the spacecraft would take off from a runway and then, higher in the atmosphere, shift to ramjet propulsion before finally using rocket motors to exit Earth’s atmosphere and move into orbit around the planet.
In June, a key official with the state corporation developing the vehicle said significant progress had been made. “Currently, China is developing its own reusable earth-to-orbit space vehicles that can take off and land horizontally,” Liu Shiquan, vice director of the China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation, said. “We have already finished several crucial ground tests for engines and [other key components], yielding remarkable achievements.”
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