What is China's Area 51? Satellite Imagery Shows 'Secret Weapons Testing Center' at Radioactive Site

Concerns are being raised over the mysterious site, dubbed as the US equivalent of 'Area 51', being developed by China in its remote radioactive desert. The discovery has sparked speculations about the Chinese using the site to develop and test secret weapons.

The satellite imagery has shown expansion being carried out on the site, which was once used to test country's nuclear weapons.

Area 51
Google Earth image of Lop Nur in Xinjiang, China. Maxar Technologies

Where is China's 'Area 51' Located?

The site is located in Lop Nur, in a remote corner of Xinjiang province. It was a former salt lake which was previously used as a nuclear testing site, making it radioactive.

NPR, which exclusively received the satellite imagery from the commercial company Maxar, reported that the images show a dozen large concrete buildings under construction near the landing strip.

The outlet further reported that the buildings have made a significant change at the airfield, which was void of any permanent accommodation until now.

Speaking to the outlet, Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: "I think we're observing what appears to be a pretty important facility for China's military space activities that appears to be growing."

The satellite imagery hints at the possibility of construction at the site beginning in the summer of 2020. Stating that the buildings at the site resemble those at other Chinese military facilities, Panda said that its use was still unclear. "This may be offices for officers, if this indeed a site that will be a permanent military installation of some sort. Housing is another possibility," he added.

Chinese Site Houses a Huge Runway

The outlet also stated that apart from the buildings, the site also houses a runway. It was widely believed that China had landed a highly classified space plane at the site.

Even though nothing has been clear on the secret plane, the outlet reported that it likely resembles the Space Shuttles used by the astronauts to reach the orbit.

Claiming that China's space plane would be big enough, Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer with the Center for Astrophysics Harvard and Smithsonian who tracks satellites and spacecraft, told NPR: "It's certainly not, I would say, big enough to fly people."

Commenting on the expansion being carried out at the site, McDowell said: "This seems to be something that is more than just, 'We're coming here for the weekend.'"