Wait a minute!
Image credit: Barbara David

Update: No reports of interference of Santa Claus by China’s space plane.


About that robotic China space plane now circling Earth!

I woke up this morning worried about possible consequences of this winged warrior of an experimental vehicle fouling up the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD’s) ability to track Santa Claus.

One satellite tracker reportedly has the Chinese craft belching out communiqués to a ground station or boat near British Columbia, Canada.

Indeed, for the last several days, media outlets have cast dire warnings, just as Santa is prepared to make his Christmas droppings around the planet.

Image credit: NORAD



For example, here are a couple of headline-catching eye-grabbers:

Top secret Chinese spaceplane is releasing strong signals over North America – months after US shot down China’s spy balloon that collected intelligence from military sites.”

China’s space plane deployed 6 mysterious ‘wingmen,’ and no one knows what they are

Possible design of China’s space plane.
Source: Homem do Espaco/Twitter

Spirit dragon

So China’s top-secret spaceship is spewing out signals over North America. All in all, shades of that spy balloon from China that was eventually downed via a jet-launched Sidewinder missile.

Making matters more worrisome, according to media outlets, the clandestine craft – dubbed Shenlong after a spirit dragon from Chinese mythology – tossed out six mysterious objects after its launch on December 15.

The objects are being tracked by the US Space Force, but they are scant of publicly releasing specific details as to what they are or what purpose they serve. Maybe the craft is testing U.S. surveillance skills?

But all this gives rise to the fact that tonight Santa Claus is making his annual trip from the North Pole to deliver presents to children all over the world.

No wonder I’m not sleeping well.

China’s tracking facility at the Santiago Satellite Station in Chili.
Image credit: Marco Langbroek 

Mystery ship

But wait a minute!

According to satellite watcher, Robert Christy at his Orbital Focus website, these kinds of stories and bait-click titles are nonsense.

The four (not six) objects are parts cast off by China’s CZ 2F launch vehicle that put the space plane into Earth orbit, Christy notes.

“There is no ‘mystery ship’ moored off Canada,” Christy reports. “The radio transmissions described emanate from the spaceplane making its first daily orbital pass over China.”

Technical connection

Similarly, satellite tracker Marco Langbroek of the Netherlands, calls into question anything nefarious going on.

In his assessment, he told Inside Outer Space that China’s space plane passes do go more or less directly over China’s tracking facility at the Santiago Satellite Station in Chili, where China is leasing tracking capacity.

Uncrewed military space plane featuring the United States Space Force logo for the first time.
Image credit: U.S. Space Force/Courtesy Photo

“So rather than there being some unacknowledged tracking station on a ship on the ocean near North America,” he suspects  that the space plane might only broadcast within say half an orbit from passing over their ground station in Chili.

All that said, master satellite watcher, Scott Tilley is doing deep dives into sorting out signals associated with the Chinese space plane and its “wingman” objects. There may be a technical connection with the space plane operations and China’s secretive Yaogan satellite constellation, a set of military reconnaissance spacecraft, he speculates.


Meanwhile, all this tracking talk of the Chinese vehicle leads to a U.S. Space Force “counter-punch” – the projected launch of America’s own classified robotic space plane – the X-37B. It’s due for liftoff no earlier than December 28, riding atop a SpaceX Falcon Heavy booster, headed for the heights on its classified undertaking.

U.S. Space Force-52 will be the seventh flight of the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV-7) built by Boeing and this flight is a program first making use of a Falcon Heavy booster.

Here’s the bad news.

That X-37B has been delayed in its send-off…now too late to counter China’s space plane outing and any provocative anti-jamming of the true whereabouts of Santa Claus, his sleigh, reindeer entourage, and all those packages!

Meanwhile, happy holidays to all and keep an eye on the sky.

To double-check on Santa’s route, tap into this NORAD site at:


Leave a Reply