Chinese surveillance ship calls
Sep 28, 2003
The Chinese surveillance tracking ship Yuan Wang 3 arrived in Durban port at the weekend.
In the past the arrival of the ship has preceded the launching of one of China’s Shenzhou space probes, which aims to place a man in orbit.
China operates four similar ships, which are staged strategically in the Pacific, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans each time one of these rockets is launched. Ever since the first launching in November 1999 this has meant Yuan Wang 1 and 2 going into the Pacific, 4 being based in the Indian Ocean with a call at Fremantle in Australia, and Yuan Wang 3 coming to Durban from where she heads around the Cape for the Atlantic coast.
During the 1999 launch of Shenzhou I Yuan Wang 3, which was on station off the Namibia coast, sent the signal to fire the retro rockets and bring the returning capsule safely out of orbit to a landing northwest of Wuhai in Inner Mongolia, after 14 orbits lasting 21 hours.
In November last year China completed the building of a tracking, telemetry and space research station near Swakopmund in Namibia but presumably the ship still has an important task to do in these parts.
Since then China has launched several Shenzhou spacecraft into orbit each time involving Yuan Wang 3. The January 2001 launch took a monkey, a dog, a rabbit and a number of snails into orbit and the following year Chinese authorities announced the successful 2002 launch had set the stage for a manned space flight in the second half of 2003.
Who knows, perhaps the current visit of Yuan Wang 3 may predict the launching of China’s first manned flight into space?
Each ship, which has an impressive array of dishes and scanners and a helicopter deck, displaces 21 000 tonnes fully loaded and carries a crew of about 470 personnel including scientists.