By MailOnline Reporter
China is developing a hypersonic aircraft to take pilots, and perhaps even passengers, to the edge of space.
A state aerospace firm has reportedly begun research on an aircraft capable of taking off from a runway and carrying a crew into low Earth orbit.
The design is purported to be a more efficient successor to Nasa’s Space Shuttle, which was launched on a rocket but landed on a runway.
The new space plane is being developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASTC).
When completed it could dramatically reduce the costs of space travel and give China a boost in the renewed space race.
According to Popular Science, the aircraft would take off like a normal plane, before a supersonic scramjet engine kicks in to lift it to almost 100 km above sea level.
At this point, rocket boosters will provide the additional thrust, giving it enough power to escape the clutches of Earth's lower atmosphere.
Plans for the plane were discussed on state broadcaster CCTV, with a plane entering service by 2030.
With Nasa's Space Shuttle programme decommissioned since 2011, a hybrid space plane could give the Chinese an edge in the space race.
Details are sketchy at this early stage, but the craft could potentially hit speeds of Mach 5, reports Popular Science.
It comes just a few weeks after Russia revealed it was developing a hypersonic aircraft capable to travelling anywhere in the world in two hours.
The European Space Agency has also been funding research into a revolutionary Sabre Engine capable to propelling an aircraft at 4,000 mph.
China is reportedly developing a hypersonic aircraft (pictured) capable of carrying those on board into low Earth orbit. The move could drastically reduce the cost of space travel, it is claimed