Yuanwang 7 was officially commissioned on Tuesday. Zong Zhaodun / For China Daily
China commissioned a new-generation ship on Tuesday for tracking and controlling spacecraft. It will soon be used to service the Shenzhou XI manned mission, according to the China Satellite Maritime Tracking and Control Department.
The 220-meter-long, 40-meter-high Yuanwang 7, which entered service in Jiangyin, Jiangsu province, has a displacement of 30,000 metric tons. Capable of resisting strong typhoons, the vessel can operate 100 days at the sea, the department said in a news release.
The ship underwent a 60-day trial run in waters off Zhoushan, Zhejiang.
It was approved by the State Council in September 2012, and construction by Jiangnan Shipyard Group Co began in October 2014.
The Yuanwang 7 is the most technologically advanced ship China has ever built for tracking and controlling spacecraft.
It will extensively boost the country's capabilities, the department said.
China built its first tracking ship, the Yuanwang 1, in the late 1970s, becoming the fourth nation in the world, after the United States, the former Soviet Union and France, to operate such a vessel.
Since then, the Yuanwang fleet has carried out nearly 100 expeditions and traveled millions of kilometers in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
Currently, China has four tracking ships in service - the Yuanwang 3, Yuanwang 5, Yuanwang 6, and now the latest one, the Yuanwang 7.
It will take part in the Tiangong II space laboratory mission and the Shenzhou XI manned mission that are scheduled for fall, the department said.
As part of China's manned space program, the Tiangong II will be launched in mid-September, while the Shenzhou XI, with two male astronauts, will dock with the space lab one month later.
The nation's last manned mission was in June 2013 when the Shenzhou X, transported three astronauts to dock with the Tiangong I space laboratory.