"I'm reading a lot into a few little dots," admits Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who diligently tracks spacecraft and satellites. ButFrom a thread about identifying the airstrip:
So why might China now be getting into space planes?
"It's a great question," says Brian Weeden, director of program planning for the Secure World Foundation, which advocates for the peaceful use of space. "We're not even really sure why the U.S. military is pursuing a space plane."
HI EVERYBODY! Over the past few days, I've been thinking a lot about this mysterious airstrip in China.— Geoff Brumfiel (@gbrumfiel) September 9, 2020
This is the place where @planet4589 @Marco_Langbroek @DutchSpace and others think China's new space plane landed on 6 Sept... (photo 8 Sep via @planetlabs).
Let's talk! pic.twitter.com/2znOenlgZc
So is there a runway that DOES look like Lop Nur anywhere in the world? Well yes, actually I happened to find one… in Florida. pic.twitter.com/6LeFbi6EJa— Geoff Brumfiel (@gbrumfiel) September 9, 2020
Related, another secret uncovered:
This very good piece has some incredible photos, but they missed my favourite thing you can discover using this method. https://t.co/X2v9Hz9iBb— alex hern (@alexhern) August 27, 2020
It looks like yet more landscape, until you realise the scale is off: it's huge by human standards, but those aren't mountain peaks. Instead, it's more like… a giant map? But where of? pic.twitter.com/CMQVTJPRK2— alex hern (@alexhern) August 27, 2020
What this is is a gigantic – 900m x 700m – recreation of Aksai Chin, part of the disputed territory between India and China, as well as a chunk of southern Tibet.— alex hern (@alexhern) August 27, 2020
The best theory I've read for why this exists is that it's to train Chinese tank commanders about the terrain they'd be encountering were the border disputes between the two countries to get… a little hotter.— alex hern (@alexhern) August 27, 2020
And one more:
Cool map, assembled by Andrei Conovaloff, marks the locations of dozens of old Corona satellite calibration targets in the desert. https://t.co/ySc5m1Isxw | via @DowntownJCO @AJKhn pic.twitter.com/Tmie42LlvM— Geoff Manaugh (@geoffmanaugh) September 7, 2020