According to a news report released in state owned media last week, China is moving forward with development of their own “space plane,” similar to the secretive U.S. Air Force X-37B platform in function, though very different in delivery.

America’s X-37B, which looks quite a bit like a miniature space shuttle, has been in service since 2015, deploying classified payloads and loitering in space for hundreds of days at a time. It’s carried into orbit on an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which it’s interesting to note, is propelled by Russian sourced RD-180 liquid fuel rocket boosters. Once in orbit, the X-37s small on-board engines are utilized primarily for maneuvering and upon reentry, unlike the shuttle, which used a massive orange fuel tank to supply it’s three primary engines at launch.

The ship itself is not particularly big: at less than 30 feet long and boasting a wingspan of only around 15 feet, you could actually put both X-37s that have been built inside the payload bay of the now-retired space shuttle. The smaller size doesn’t truly compromise much of the spacecraft’s functionality, however, as it does not require a crew, nor crew compartments, to function.

The Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle mission 4 landed at NASA ‘s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility May 7, 2017. (U.S. Air Force)

While the artist’s rendering of the planned Chinese autonomous orbital payload delivery vehicle does bear a striking resemblance to America’s X-37 spacecraft, it’s trip to orbit will be more comparable to Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch project, which is currently the largest wingspan aircraft ever built. Like the Stratolaunch, the Chinese spacecraft will be carried to the very cusp of earth’s atmosphere via a heavy lift aircraft, where it will then detach and engage it’s on-board rockets to carry it the rest of the way into orbit.