Home NEWS China’s Space Plane Deployed 6 “Mysterious Wingmen” In Orbit, Claims Amateur Astronomer

China’s Space Plane Deployed 6 “Mysterious Wingmen” In Orbit, Claims Amateur Astronomer

China's Space Plane Deployed 6 'Mysterious Wingmen' In Orbit, Claims Amateur Astronomer

Scott Tilley, an amateur astronomer, referred to these objects as “mysterious wingmen”.

Just four days after being launched on its third mission, China’s reusable space plane, Shenlong also known as the “Divine Dragon”, allegedly released six unidentified objects in Earth’s orbit. According to Space.com, amateur observers across the world have been diligently tracking the spacecraft since its launch. They found mystery objects – designated OBJECT A, B, C, D, E, and F – emitting emissions. Scott Tilley, an amateur astronomer known for his satellite tracking expertise, has been closely monitoring these objects. He referred to these objects as “mysterious wingmen” on X (formerly Twitter).

“We have confirmation of S-band signals from the 3rd Chinese ‘spaceplane’ mission,” Mr Tilley wrote. “However, this time the ‘mysterious wingman’ emitter is only sending signals intermittently but it is fading deeply like earlier missions,” he added.

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Speaking to Space.comthe astronomer said that OBJECT A appears to be emitting signals reminiscent of those emitted by objects that China’s space plane has released on previous missions. “OBJECT A’s or nearby emission is reminiscent of earlier Chinese space plane ‘wingman’ emissions in the sense the signal is modulated with a limited amount of data,” he said, adding, “There is speculation that the emission from OBJECT A may be from an object close to it, but this is speculation, not based on any evidence I’m aware of”.

Mr Tilley also revealed that OBJECT D and E appear to be emitting idle “placeholder” signals with no data accompanying them. “It should be noted that unlike emissions early in the Chinese space plane missions 1 and 2, these emissions are very intermittent and do not stay on long. It’s taken days of observations tracking pass after pass with dish antennas to come up with this data,” he told the outlet.

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Mr Tilley and fellow trackers are confident that the emissions are coming either from the objects or from close proximity to them. They based their observation on the objects’ expected paths, the absence of other known objects during data collection, and the unique modulation that “has only been seen from previous Chinese space plane missions using [a frequency of] 2280MHz,” Mr Tilley explained.

“In summary, this iteration of the Chinese space plane mission launched into a similar orbit as the last two, but operationally it is exhibiting different radio behaviour than before. The additional observations of the emissions from OBJECT D and E is new, but could also have been missed on earlier missions if they too were intermittent,” he said.

“Something we should watch for is close encounters between OBJECT A and Objects D and E. D and E are in fairly elliptical orbits, while A is in a near-circular orbit. In the next couple of days there will be close approaches between these objects at perigee,” he added.

Notably, according to the publication, China’s space plane exhibited similar behaviour in its prior missions. On its two previous missions, launched in September 2020 and August 2022, the spacecraft was reportedly seen releasing a small unknown object into orbit. Back then, speculation ranged from service modules to small satellites for monitoring the space plane.

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