10:45 GMT08 July 2020
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    China on Tuesday formally commissioned its next-generation Yuan Wang 7 ocean-going ship for tracking and controlling spacecraft, after a two-month trial period, Chinese media reported.

    According to the China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department, the vessel will be used for maritime tracking of the Shenzhou-11 manned space mission, and the Tiangong II space laboratory mission scheduled for later this year.

    The department currently operates three other Yuan Wang-class ships (numbers 3, 5, and 6), based at Jiangyin on the River Yangtze, near Shanghai.

    Yuan Wang 7, constructed by Jiangnan Shipbuilding, is 220 meters in length, 40 meters tall, displaces 25,000 tons, and is said to be able to can resist strong typhoons while operating 100 days at sea, the department said in a statement.

    ​The ship is said to be the most technologically-advanced watercraft designed by China for the use of space tracking. The vessel features three large dish antennae some 10-12 meters in diameter, and an array of radomes and aerials.

    The Yuan Wang-class ships supplement China's network of land-based tracking stations, which span the breadth of the country's 4,500 km-wide land mass.

    China built its first monitoring ship, the Yuan Wang 1, four decades ago, becoming the 4th nation on the planet to deploy this type of vessel, after the US, Russia and France. Since then, the Yuan Wang fleet has carried out some 70 expeditions, traveling over 1.5 million nautical miles in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.


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