Facility near Bosten Lake, Xinjiang China — Possibly Airship Hangar
UPDATED STORY: This article has been updated with new information regarding the tower. Since this was written it has obtained some interest from a number of sources. Most notably, The Drive was able to offer significantly more contemporary imagery at higher resolution. One source which lays doubt on the claim that this complex of buildings is of military origin is a scientific paper that describes the tower as a “meteorological tower” alongside details of atmospheric measurements. This may lend itself to the theory that the hangar is indeed for a stratospheric airship designed for meteorological measurements. With that said, there are still a number of indicators that this may also be a military installation (perhaps hand-in-hand with research) that warrant further analysis and investigation.
This article aims to document the analysis of several sites in Xinjiang, China, notably a hangar which is presumed to house airships.
TL;DR: The hangar is the likely home of a stratosphere airship named Tian heng, which was tested in 2017.
While the article does not come to concrete answers, I decided to make it to help people who stumble upon it in the future and wonder what it is.
While investigating it myself, there was very little information, but as it turns out, several people have discussed it before.
In writing this article, I hope to create a reference point which covers much of the information myself and others have already found.
All images credits go to Google and Satellite Pro.
The hangar in question is located at 41.789577,87.39920, just South of the most Eastern tip of Bosten Lake (博斯腾湖) in Xinjiang.
It is around 104km away from Korla, and lies in a remote region of Xinjiang.
Due to lack of imagery in the region, it does not appear close up in Google Earth, though you can see the foundations of it prior to construction.
It is visible in other satellite imagery sites however, and does jump in and out on Google Earth when zooming further out (though only to confirm its existence since detail isn’t good enough in those images).
The tall, blue hangar is built along the East/West line, with what looks like a runway to its West, leading straight out the mechanical hangar doors.
The “runway” doesn’t actually seem to be a runway due to its short length (~900m) and inconsistent paving.
The dimensions of the hangar are not typical of normal fighter jet aircraft — it’s much taller. Additionally, the dimensions of the runway do not match the profile of a plane hangar.
The hangar does however resemble that of an airship facility. The “runway” leading out would not have to be as long for takeoff and there is an additional circle structure with a tower nearby, which may be a mooring post for an airship.
In searching for information online, I was able to find that the area was of interest to scientists working with high-altitude airships.
One study, titled: “Analysis and Simulation of the Stratospheric Quasi-zero Wind Layer over Korla, Xinjiang Province, China”, investigates the local air movements and how they affect airships.
This indicates potential interest in the use of Stratospheric airships in the area.
The use of stratospheric airships in China has been covered before, however most list the Alxa League region.
One study did however refer to an airship being tested in Korla. It was a stratosphere airship by the name of Tian heng.
This is currently the extent of my findings on the hangar, however I believe it is worth considering the locations which I plan on mentioning next.
The region is known for military use, and the area around Korla is known for missile testing and demonstrations.
The People’s Liberation Army’s Unit 63618, which works with ballistic missile defences, is based in Korla.
Large Phased-Array Radar, Korla, 41.641143,86.236949
Not a huge amount to say here. Roughly 98km West of the hangar this bad boy does what it says on the tin.
Korla Missile Test Facility, 41.53692612,86.35399081
The following locations are very close and assumed to be part of the same complex…
The next few locations are all very closely connected and seem directly related.
I will cover them individually, but here is a graphic showing them together.
Unidentified Tower (possibly meteorological measurement station), 41.72221589,87.40974707
This tower is actually what I found first which led to the whole investigation. This tower is 7.5km South of the hangar.
Image analysis was good for this tower due to multiple HQ images from many time periods allowing the tower to be seen at several angles.
I was able to calculate the height of the building by using trigonometry and sun data from SunCalc.
Using one of the satellite images with a known date, I was able to measure the angle of the shadow to obtain the exact time the image was taken. From here I could use the angle of the sun over the horizon to calculate the height of the tower, based on shadow length.
I determined the tower to be around 86.5m tall though please accept several meters variance from that value.
Its purpose is unknown however I have seen suggestions of it resembling a gravity testing drop tower similar to that of Fallturm Bremen, Germany.
UPDATE: This tower appears to be listed as a “meteorological” tower according to this scientific paper. While this explanation offers great insight into the purpose of the tower, the surrounding facilities do have features of interest that may suggest military origin.
The meteorological tower was 100 m high, and sensors were mounted at heights of 10 m, 20 m, 35 m, 50 m, 70 m, 80 m, and 100 m above the ground, respectively. Each height was equipped with temperature and humidity sensors, as well as three-dimensional ultrasonic wind sensors. Meanwhile, the air-pressure sensors were only mounted at the 10 and 100 m heights. The temperature, air-pressure, and relative humidity data were stored at 60 s sampling intervals and a three-dimensional velocity of 10 s. Then, one set of permanently installed L-band radiosonde radar and one GPS sounding system (located next to the MS1) were applied in the atmospheric boundary layer soundings for a selected case study. This study’s sample height interval of radiosonde was 50 m, while the GPS sounding was continuously stored at one second intervals.