China’s space tracking ship sails for Chang’e-5 mission

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Aerial photo shows China's spacecraft tracking ship Yuanwang-3 sailing on the Pacific Ocean, on June 21, 2019. (Xinhua/Li Yuze)

NANJING, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) — China’s second-generation space tracking ship Yuanwang-3 left here Thursday for missions concerning the Chang’e-5 lunar probe, according to sources with the country’s satellite maritime tracking and controlling department.

China’s Chang’e-5 mission, which is scheduled to be launched late this month, will bring moon samples back to Earth, making it one of the country’s most complicated and challenging space explorations.

Yuanwang-3 mainly undertakes maritime tracking and monitoring tasks of high-, medium- and low-orbit satellites, spacecraft and space stations.

Since it was launched more than 20 years ago, the ship has made more than 50 voyages and completed 89 missions on the sea, including tracking of the Shenzhou spacecraft, the Chang’e lunar probe and BeiDou satellites, maintaining a 100 percent success rate.

Two other tracking ships, Yuanwang-5 and Yuanwang-6, have also sailed out for their missions. The departures of these ships indicate that the Yuanwang fleet’s maritime missions this year are coming to a close.

Since the beginning of 2020, vessels of the Yuanwang fleet, sailing over 150,000 nautical miles, have performed monitoring missions of the last BeiDou satellite and China’s first Mars probe, as well as transporting missions of the Long March carrier rockets. 

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