China launched a new space tracking ship on Saturday, expected to serve the Shenzhou VII spacewalk mission scheduled for autumn, said a spokesman of the maritime space surveying and controlling operation.
The new space tracking ship was the sister ship of the Yuanwang-5, which was put into use in September, said the spokesman, adding the two vessels would play a key role in the Shenzhou VII mission.
The new ship, with a full load displacement tonnage of 25,000, started construction in April 2006 with adopted advanced technologies in the fields of space, maritime, meteorology, electronic, mechanics, optics, telecom and computer sciences.
The ship can resist wind above level 12 and cruise in any sea areas in the latitude belt between 60 degrees north and 60 degrees south.
It had an information superhighway platform built via optical fibers, on which various systems could expand their functions and share information so as to promptly root out malfunction, the spokesman said.
He said the ship was "sailor-friendly" as a crew would feel more comfortable during their long stays at sea. Sailors could benefit from the technologies in reduced vibration and noise and a more advanced air-conditioning system.
"The sister ships will offer a strong support for China's large space missions and will further fuel the country's space development," the spokesman said.
Besides the new tracking ship, the maritime space surveying and controlling operation, initiated in 1978, boasted a fleet of five "Yuanwang" ships that had carried out 56 expeditions, extending more than 1.3 million sea mile in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
The "Yuanwang" ships were engaged in China's past six Shenzhou missions between 1999 and 2005, conducting surveying and controlling operations for spaceships' orbit transfer and maintenance, attitude adjustment and video and audio transmission.
The ships, having successfully conducted 65 surveying and controlling tasks, together with some 20 terrestrial surveying stations, constitute the country's space telemetry network, which is able to operate underwater and for international satellites and manned spacecraft, experts say.
The Shenzhou VII spacewalk mission was crucial to establishing a big space laboratory or station, which was therefore more challenging than the Shenzhou VI, said a mission scientist last month.
The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China is getting prepared for the launch.
(Xinhua News Agency April 13, 2008)