Facility near Bosten Lake, Xinjiang China — Possibly Airship Hangar

Tom Jarvis
6 min readOct 15, 2020
Hangar near Korla and Bosten Lake, Xinjiang, China 41.789577,87.399201

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

One of the key things that stood out about this facility is the size. Compare height to the vehicles and doors.

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 end of the runway has a circular section and what looks like military vehicles can be seen nearby in imagery from Satellites.pro

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.

Visible above the “runway” is what could possibly 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.

Taken from: “Multi-disciplinary design optimization with variable complexity modeling for a stratosphere airship”, which lists an airship, the Tian heng, tested in Korla

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.

Nearby Locations

Large Phased-Array Radar, Korla, 41.641143,86.236949

On the Southern outskirts of Korla is a Large Phased-Array Radar. 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

15km South-East of the LPAR is a missile test facility, it extends beyond what is seen in the image above but this is the most “exciting” area.

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.

The blue hangar discussed above was not actually discovered at the time I made this graphic due to it not being visible on Google Earth. It’s location is under the topmost red zoom box.

Unidentified Tower (possibly meteorological measurement station), 41.72221589,87.40974707

Roughly 86.5m tower remains a mystery. It seems to be part of the larger complex

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.

Image showing the location of meteorological tower matches known location of tower under observation. Meteorological stations listed also match locations discussed elsewhere in the article.

Structures 41.73405247,87.40154125

Possible radio or microwave equipment

Structures 41.73148876,87.40966158

Possible radar

Buildings 41.73243481,87.40926898

The bottom (right) paved square is the same location as the possible radar above, which has since been removed.

Buildings, hangars, and structures 41.76308617,87.41895709

One of the more interesting locations. This area looks to have radio/microwave equipment as well as camouflaged buildings and possible concealed vehicles.
Closeup (image from more recent date) shows the buildings are camouflaged and there appears to be some vehicles under desert camo tarps. These are the hangar buildings shown in the image above.