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It inspires comparisons to Area-51: A massive, three-mile-long runway in a remote patch of Chinese desert, hundreds of miles from any cities.
Now, it looks like the site is undergoing an expansion. Satellite imagery from the commercial company Maxar supplied exclusively to NPR shows around a dozen large concrete buildings under construction near the landing strip. The buildings mark a significant change at the airfield, which up until now lacked much in the way of permanent accommodation.
“I think we’re observing what appears to be a pretty important facility for China’s military space activities that appears to be growing,” says Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who tracks space issues there.