The latest news China launches "quasi-satellites" into close-to-space

According to the principal designer, the solar-powered vehicle is prepared for a variety of long-term monitoring tasks.

The first huge drone powered only by solar energy and intended to fly in close to space was successfully tested in China on Saturday, according to the nation's state-owned aircraft manufacturer. Some of the tasks currently carried out by satellites could be accomplished by the vehicle.

The Qimingxing 50, or Morning Star 50, took off from Yulin in northwest China and successfully landed after a 26-minute flight, according to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC).

The manufacturer said that all of the UAV's system components were in fine shape following its first flight. The drone is exclusively powered by solar energy, and the article also pointed out that it has a very high aspect ratio and is the first twin-fuselage design for its size.

The aircraft, which has six electric motors for propulsion, is made to operate for an extended period very close to space, according to the press release.

The drone's principal designer, Zhu Shengli, described it as a "quasi-satellite," adding that it can do a variety of tasks, such as high-altitude reconnaissance, monitoring forest fires, inspecting the atmosphere, aerial mapping, and relaying communication signals.

According to him, the solar-powered drone will increase China's capabilities to operate in close space and over the oceans. According to several specialists, the drone can use its solar panels to their fullest extent at an altitude of 20,000 meters or higher when there are no clouds, which might allow the vehicle to stay in the air as long as its solar technology is functional.

The Global Times consulted an alleged Chinese aerospace specialist who claimed that because there are so few satellites and their overhead crossings have a fairly set timetable, satellite services aren't constantly accessible. He said that near-space drones could make up for these drawbacks in missions that required rapid response. He pointed out that satellite systems might also be compromised during hostilities, thus near-space drones could take their place.

The Chinese space UAV Qimingxing 50 is not the first of its kind; two other space businesses in China have already created solar-powered drone versions that can fly at comparable altitudes.

These skills are also present in the US and the UK. The solar-powered Airbus Zephyr from the UK is capable of flying at a height of 21 km, and in late August, the high-altitude Airbus Zephyr S remained in the air for 64 days before coming to rest, falling shy of the world record by a few hours.

The US's Helios Prototype, created by the technological firm AeroVironmentInc in California, set the record for the highest altitude attained by a solar-powered drone in August 2001 with a height of 29,524 meters.

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