Three “Yuanwang” space-tracking ships make triumphant returns

File photo: Yuan Wang class tracking ship

At about 15:00 of Feb. 2, 2012, Beijing time, the Yuanwang VI space-tracking ship wrapped up its 154-day voyage covering 30,000-odd nautical miles and smoothly arrived at the port of the China’s Satellite Maritime Tracking and Controlling Department.

By now, all the three Yuanwang space-tracking ships implementing maritime tracking and controlling tasks of the docking of the Tiangong-1, the space laboratory module, and the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft had returned successfully.

Since September 2, 2011, the Yuanwang III, the Yuanwang V and the Yuanwang VI space-tracking ships had sailed in succession to the predetermined areas in the Pacific Ocean to jointly implement 12 maritime tracking and controlling missions for the docking of the Tiangong-1 space laboratory module and the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. During the 539-day maritime operation and 120,000-nautical-mile safe voyage, the three space-tracking ships set four new records in the history of China’s aerospace maritime tracking and controlling operations, including carrying out the most missions per ship in a year, having the shortest interval between two missions, having the longest span of time in one voyage, and tracking and controlling continuously for the longest time.

The Yuanwang III and the Yuanwang V space-tracking ships returned safely in late January of 2012.

During the docking process, the Yuanwang space-tracking ships successfully completed 206 circles/times of maritime tracking and controlling missions during the injection, operation and docking phases of the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft.

By Zhang Xiaoqi and Huang Congjun