Chinese spacecraft tracker berthed in harbour

INTERNATIONAL VISITOR: The Yuan Wang 6 berthed in downtown Auckland next to The Cloud.
INTERNATIONAL VISITOR: The Yuan Wang 6 berthed in downtown Auckland next to The Cloud.

A Chinese navy ship used to track spacecraft and missiles has berthed in Auckland following a successful Chinese space mission.

Yuan Wang 6 is docked at the city's downtown ferry terminal next door to The Cloud.

A Chinese Embassy official confirmed it had been in the Pacific Ocean as part of China's latest space mission.

Earlier this month, China recovered an unmanned space shuttle which landed in the country's western desert after orbiting the earth for more than two weeks.

The Shenzhou 8 craft docked twice with another space module over those two weeks.

Chinese authorities called the mission a "major breakthrough" for their space programme.

The Washington Post reported that China will carry out two more space docking missions next year, one possibly manned, and plans to complete a manned space station by around 2020.

The Yuanwang-class ships, which visit the Pacific several times a year, are People's Liberation Army Navy ships used to track satellites and ballistic missiles.

Specific details are kept secret but the ship is reportedly crewed by up to 470 people, weighs 21,000 tonnes when fully-loaded and stretches to around 200 metres.

The ship is not armed but is laden with satellites and scanners, and is crewed by scientists.

According to the Sino Defence website, the ship was launched in 2008 and is capable of tracking space launch vehicles, satellites, and spacecraft.

The Yuanwang 6 has a large mission control hall occupying two decks and is equipped with a range of weather forecasting equipments including a weather radar, weather balloon and meteorological satellite image receiving terminal, the website says.

The Yuan Wang 6 was also used during the third human spaceflight mission in 2007 to track the mission from sea, even visiting Auckland to replenish supplies.

According to the Global Security website the Yuang Wan ships are assigned to the western and southern Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean west of Australia, and southern Atlantic Ocean to track and control the Shenzhou spacecraft.

Auckland Now