China commissions space tracking ship as new station readied
by Staff Writers
Beijing (Sputnik) Jul 19, 2016
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.
It is likely that China will play a leading role in this sphere and might replace the ISS program, in which Japan also participates.
Hainan Island is located in the south of China. On June 25 the new space station which was built in one part of this island, a new Changchan-7 rocket, was launched.
China seeks to play a decisive role in the field of space exploration and develop a Chinese version of a space station called Tiangong.
This year should be a historic one for the program development of the Chinese space station. The Chinese Space Agency plans to launch a research orbital module Tiangong-2 in September. It will form the basis for the following modules.
The manned Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, which will go into space in October, is set to dock with the module in orbit. Two astronauts will spend one month on the Tiangong-2.
China's Tiangong space station involves the idea of allowing a manned spacecraft, as well as two research modules, to attach themselves to the main body of the station.
The station will be located at about 400 kilometers from Earth.
The station will always have three astronauts and the crew will be changed every six months. The crew will carry out scientific experiments and conduct other work.
Construction of Tiangong should be completed in 2022. It is assumed that the station will operate for ten years, but depending on the technical state, the lifetime can be increased. Thus, China will have at its disposal a space station which will be very similar to the International Space Station (ISS).
Moreover, China plans to launch into the near orbit a high-tech telescope. It is expected that in terms of functionality it will not differ from NASA's Hubble space telescope. It is expected to contribute to the study of dark matter and other cosmic questions.
"We will develop international cooperation. We will provide an opportunity to all of countries in space research and will take in astronauts," according to the representative of the manned space flight program Wu Ping at the session of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes, held in mid-June in Vienna.
Wu Ping also reported that China has signed an agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs for the development of international cooperation.
In this regard, Chinese Heritage Foundation specialist Dean Cheng warns that cooperation with China will have great risks. China has no experience in international cooperation in the field of space research. In addition, there are problems with the budget and transparency of the project.
Russia also is entertaining the idea of operating its own space station after 2024. As for the United States, with which Japan has to keep pace, its attention is currently focused on the program of a manned flight to Mars set to take place in 2030.
Currently, Japan is also considering the possibility of cooperation with China.
The main difference between Tiangong and the ISS is the fact that China's space station is set to be two research modules. The development of new materials in microgravity and fundamental research will be the main mission of the space station. China is also ready to provide any country with the opportunity to conduct research.
On the other hand, the research by ISS is carried out by Japan, the US and other European countries. In the Japanese research module Kibo experiments are being conducted on high-quality protein crystallization to create medicinal drugs.
Also Tiangong can accommodate up to six people and Europe is interested in sending their astronauts. On ISS there are six permanent employees. There are shifts of three astronauts who are then situated on the station long-term.
Source: Sputnik News
China National Space Administration
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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