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The Australian July 19, 2005

Ship pops by to keep eye on China's space quest

By Mark Dodd

CLUTTERED with advanced communications aerials, radar dishes and deep-space tracking scanners, the 20,000 tonne Yuan Wang-1 possesses all the hi-tech gadgetry needed to monitor missile shots and China's space program.

Berthed at Fremantle, its arrival in the Indian Ocean usually precedes the launch of one of China's Shenzou space probes used to send their "Taikonauts" (astronauts) into orbit.

Given the highly secretive nature of the ship's mission and its equipment, media visitors were not welcome yesterday at its high-security berth.

"We understand visitors are not welcome. The ship is not open to the public and normally it will refuse requests from journalists to come aboard," said a spokesman for Yuan Wang-1's agents, Five Star.

The Yuan Wang (Long View) is one of four surveillance ships operated by the China Satellite Launch and Tracking Control General, which employs about 20,000 staff.

It operates three satellite launch centres, a satellite control centre and several overseas tracking stations besides the four Yuan Wang class tracking ships. The four ships operate in three major oceans - the western and southern Pacific, Indian and south Atlantic - tracking and controlling the Shenzou (Divine Vessel) spacecraft.

All four ships also monitor long-range missile launches, according to the respected website, GlobalSecurity.org.

They each carry 470 crew, including numerous scientists and technicians, but yesterday most crew members were enjoying free time sightseeing in Fremantle while the ship took on provisions in preparation for today's departure.

Ainslie de Vos, from the Fremantle Port Authority, said it was Yuan Wang-1's second visit to the port.


Copyright 2005, The Australian