The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy space tracking ship, Yuan Wang 7, left the port of Shanghai for her maiden Indian Ocean deployment, on Aug. 14.
Yuan Wang 7 is one of the Yuanwang-class (meaning “Long View”) vessel operated by the Chinese Navy for tracking and support of satellite and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). According to Global Times, the ship will perform maritime space monitoring and control missions during the deployment.
The Yuanwang vessels belong to the China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General, which is responsible for telemetry, tracking, and command for Chinese space missions. The vessels observe trajectories and provide survey and control capabilities as rockets fly downrange.
The construction of Yuanwang 7 started on Oct. 10, 2014 in Jiangnan Shipyard (Group) Co., Ltd and she was launched on July 12, 2016. The 220 meter-long, 40 meter-high ship has a displacement of 25,000 tons and an endurance of 100 days.
The vessel was involved in the Shenzhou-11 manned space mission and the debut launch of the heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket using three large dish antennae some 10–12 meters in diameter. The vessel was also set to play a role in the Chang’e-5 Moon sample return mission launch in late November, but the mission has been delayed due to the failure of the second Long March 5 rocket in July.
China boasts a fleet of seven Yuanwang space tracking ships, which have carried out some 70 expeditions and traveled more than 1.5 million nautical miles in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. The Yuanwang-1 and Yuanwang-2 ships, China’s first-generation space tracking vessels, were launched in 1979, making China the fourth country to master space tracking technology after the United States, Russia and France.
Two Yuanwang-class vessels, Yuanwang 21 and 22, are used to transport large Long March 7 and Long March 5 rockets from the port city of Tianjin in the north to the launch centre at Wenchang on the southern island province of Hainan.