After a two-month trial period, Beijing formally commissioned its next-generation Yuan Wang 7 ocean-going vessel for tracking and controlling spacecraft on July 12, Chinese media reported.
The China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department said that the ship will be used for maritime tracking of the Shenzhou-11 manned space mission, as well as for the Tiangong II space laboratory mission planned for the end of this year. Three other Yuan Wang-class ships (numbers 3, 5, and 6), based at Jiangyin on the River Yangtze, near Shanghai, are currently operated by the department.
The Yuan Wang 7 was constructed by Jiangnan Shipbuilding. Its length is 220 meters, tall is 40 meters, and it displaces 25,000 tons. According to a statement of the department, the vessel can resist strong typhoons while operating 100 days at sea. The ship is equipped with three large dish antennae some 10-12 meters in diameter, and an array of aerials and radomes. The department said that the Yuan Wang 7 is the most technologically-advanced watercraft designed by China for the use of space tracking.
The Yuan Wang-class ships complement network of land-based tracking stations of China. The first China’s monitoring ship, the Yuan Wang 1, was built four decades ago, and made China the 4th nation on the planet to deploy this type of vessel, after the US, Russia and France. Since then, about 70 expeditions has been carried out by the Yuan Wang fleet traveling over 1.5 million nautical miles in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.