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 TIME on politics Congressional Quarterly CNN/AllPolitics CNN/AllPolitics - Storypage, with TIME and Congressional Quarterly

Satellite Launches in the PRC: Hughes

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On August 23, 1993, Steinhauer went to the PRC and met with the designer of the Long March 2E rocket, Wang Dechen. Since 1985, Steinhauer had been Hughesí primary contact with the PRC on the use of their rockets. He also served as a consultant to the Optus B2 failure investigation team from January 1993 through October 1993, attending many of the failure investigation team meetings, and also meeting with the PRC regarding the failure investigation.

The purpose of Steinhauerís August meeting in the PRC was to try to help resolve things between the two companies. In particular, Steinhauer focused on Wang Dechen, the designer of the Long March 2E. Hughes believed that Wang Dechen was the key PRC individual who had to be turned around.

On September 14, 1993, Hughes Chief Scientist Steinhauer wrote a memorandum to Hughes Vice President Cromer suggesting a hard negotiating position with the PRC on the issue of the fairing failure. The memorandum said: ". . . Hughes should make an unequivocal statement to Minister Liu Jiyuan that Optus B3, or any other Hughes spacecraft, will not fly on the LM-2E without modifications to their launch vehicle fairing."

The memorandum also describes Wang Dechen as "digging in his heels" against the idea of a unified presentation identifying the failure cause for the insurance community. Cunningham advises that earlier in the investigation Wang Dechen had publicly stated that the rocket was not the cause of the failure.74

Hughes Vice President Donald Cromer says that it was his decision whether Hughes would launch Optus B3 on a Long March 2E rocket. His decision was that Hughes would not launch unless the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology made improvements to the fairing.75

In a September 9, 1993 message to Cromer, Bansang Lee made a number of recommendations related to future business relations between Hughes and the PRC in preparation for the Optus B3 insurance underwritersí briefing that was scheduled later in September. Bansang Lee wrote:

In reality by insisting that the rocket has a problem at the fairing will do [sic] harm to Hughes in the following major areas:

It will be even more difficult for the rocket to obtain insurance. This will make the Optus B3 program more expensive and more difficult to resolve.

Furthermore, it will make the APT II [the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co.ís next Hughes satellite] more difficult to obtain insurance as well. This will hurt Hughes a lot more than CGWIC [China Great Wall Industry Corporation].

We will have a ëwarí to fight, not only with CGWIC, but with China in general. This will not only hurt our satellite business in China but will generally be harmful to all Hughes activities in China for years to come.

What do we get out from [sic] this? I could not think of any [sic] that is good and useful to Hughes. The only small thing that I could think of is that in the future we could claim better reliability statistics on our satellites.

If we swallow this one and let our Chinese friends off the hook, it will actually do more good for Hughes . . .76

On September 10, 1993, Hughes Vice President Cromer asked Bansang Lee to bring Cromerís concerns to the attention of the highest levels of the PRC:

However, of even greater disappointment is the continued insistence by Wang Dechen [the PRCís Long March 2E rocket designer] that we change the conclusion of our failure investigation. He has signed an agreement that he accepts the results of our investigation yet he continues to demand we modify the results to suit his view of the accident . . .

We (Hughes and CALT) must make a full disclosure of all relevant facts and data surrounding the accident to the insurance community . . .

It is mandatory that we both make whatever changes are necessary to add margin to our designs. We are doing so on the satellite side and are prepared to disclose these at the insurance briefing. The Chinese must be able to state that they will do likewise . . .

They cannot be superficial improvements ó they must be substantial and directly related to a possible failure cause.77

On September 15, 1993, the Hughes official coordinating the launch failure investigation with the PRC, Peter Herron, wrote to Bansang Lee about the insurance briefings. Herron asked Lee to inform the PRC that Hughes was willing to remove all information from the insurance briefing related to the Long March 2E rocket from its presentation at the insurance briefing. But Hughes would do this only if the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology presented the data that Hughes was deleting. In his letter, Herron wrote:

While we would not plan to talk about the fairing debris, it is important for full disclosure that CALT [China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] also address the following:

Debris ó The CALT report makes blanket statements that there were no delaminations. However, it is obvious that there were a number of small delaminations, both on the inside of the cylindrical portion of the fairing and along one edge of the nose cap. They [CALT] must explain why they think these occurred and what the relationship to the event [crash of the Long March 2E] is, if any . . .78

By late September, Hughes and the PRC had decided, pursuant to their May 1993 agreement, that Hughes would not brief the issue of the fairing to the insurers.

The PRC had earlier signaled to Hughesí Bansang Lee that it would consider making modifications to the fairing for the Optus B3 launch.79 Hughes Vice President Cromer confirms that Hughes made a decision to go forward with Optus B3 because the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology had committed itself to modifications to the Long March 2E rocketís fairing.80

On September 30, 1993, Hughes and PRC representatives met with the Optus B3 space insurance underwriters in London to discuss the conclusions and results of the Optus B2 failure investigation. Cunningham, as the head of the Hughes failure investigation, led the companyís presentation.81

At the time of the insurance briefing, the Hughes final investigation report was not yet finished. Although Cunningham was the author of the Hughes Optus B2 Failure Report, he says he did not distribute the report to anyone outside of Hughes, and he does not know whether anyone else at Hughes did so.82

Cunningham says that the Hughes failure investigation report was sufficiently technical that Defense Technology Security Administration approval would have been necessary for it to be exported. He does not know whether the report was ever given to the PRC, but he doubts it was.83

Cunningham says that the U.S. insurance underwriters may have been separately briefed by Hughes about its concern that the Long March 2E fairing was defective and needed modifications. Hughes claims that the Defense Technology Security Administration was not present at the insurance briefing because it chose not to attend. Defense Department monitor Coates claims he was told by Hughes that no PRC representatives would be present at the briefing.84

Hughes Vice President Cromer testified that C. Michael Armstrong, at that time Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Hughes Electronics Corporation, was generally aware of the analysis of the 1992 failure. Cromer updated Armstrong on the progress of the investigation.85

Armstrong, however, testified that although he was aware of the Optus B2 failure, he could not recall any information about a failure investigation.86

The Optus B3: Hughesí Efforts to Improve the Long March Continue

Between October 1993 and August 1994, when the Optus B3 was successfully launched, Hughes continued its efforts to have the PRC improve the Long March 2E fairing.

On October 13, 1993, Peter Herron, in his role as Program Manager for Optus B3, wrote to Bansang Lee regarding changes to the Long March 2E. Herron wrote, in part:

4. We need to discuss the possible changes to the LM-2E [Long March 2E]. How do we get the changes made?

I suspect it is unlikely that CALT [China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] will recommend changes to the fairing, since that might be seen by them as an admission that something was wrong. (Why else make a change?)

They have stated that they would make changes that their customers require. This was stated in the press release, was stated by Wang Liheng at the dinner with Don Cromer in September, and was stated by Wang Dechen during the meeting with the underwriters in London. However, we are not LV [rocket] experts and are not in a position to make recommendations for improvements.

Further, the USG would not be likely to allow us to make recommendations in the current environment.

This is my idea. Last summer we requested that CALT respond to our concern with the nose cap (you will recall the four viewgraphs we prepared and showed to Wang Dechen [the PRCís Long March 2E designer] as well as the bad reaction that resulted).

I think we can use these same viewgraphs to request that CALT examine some ëHughes requestedí changes to the fairing. Specifically, we can ask for CALT ideas on how they would implement changes that would,

1. Add a bracket or block to prevent any possibility of overlap of the two fairing halves,

2. Increase the strength of the rivets along the separation line. . .

The Defense Departmentís Lt. Col. Coates says that, had he been asked, he would not have approved the transmittal of this information to the PRC. He also says that Hughes personnel knew that each separate transmission of information to the PRC required specific approval.87

On October 20, 1993, Peter Herron, Hughesí program manager for the Optus B3, wrote to Chen Shouchun, Vice President of the China Great Wall Industry Corporation, regarding Optus B3 meetings scheduled for November 1993 at Hughes. One topic of Herronís letter is ". . . discussions of ways to improve margins for the next launch. CALT [the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] has already committed to make some changes to the LM-2E [Long March 2E rocket] in accordance with our needs."

Hughes and the PRC held design meetings in November 1993, to discuss the proposed modifications to the fairing.

The Optus B3 was licensed by the Commerce Department, not the State Department. Other than the license for the Optus B3, which was approved by the Commerce Department, Herron did not submit any Optus B3 fairing improvement documents to the U.S. Government for approval.

Steven Burke, a structural analysis engineer at Hughes and principal investigator on the Optus B2 investigation, recalls attending a number of Optus B3 design review meetings with the PRC. During the early portion of the Optus B2 failure investigation, Burke had been responsible for analyzing Optus B2 rocket telemetry data supplied by the PRC. Burke and fellow engineer Spencer Ku had determined, along with Hughesí Chief Technologist Al Wittmann, that the fairing had caused the failure.88

On May 9, 1994, Burke wrote a detailed technical paper entitled "Optus B3/LM-2E Fairing Design Review," discussing a meeting with the PRC that occurred on May 2, 1994 regarding fairing improvements to the Long March 2E needed for the upcoming Optus B3 launch. He says the meetings were both political and technical in nature: political in that the PRC was unwilling to admit fault, while from a technical perspective, they were willing to make changes.

Burke further says that as a result of the Hughes investigation, Hughes had asked the PRC to strengthen the weak parts of the fairing.89

In the paper, Burke wrote that the PRC proposed changes to what it termed the "already adequate" capabilities of the fairing. His paper continued, identifying PRC proposals for the following changes to the Long March 2E rocketís fairing:

a. Increased number of nose cap attachment screws from 21 to 41. Increased number of cover strip attachment screws from 12 to 23.

Comment: These changes add strength to joints that would not need strengthening if the dome were stiff enough.

In my opinion, these changes do not address the real problem with the nose cap design, nor do they constitute an effective "crutch" that would preclude another fairing failure. They do offer some integrity enhancement, but against loads that could best be limited by maintaining the as-designed dome configuration.

In short, these [the fairing changes proposed by the PRC] are token changes that are easy to implement but do not preclude another fairing failure because they neither stiffen the sawcut edges of the dome halves nor stiffen the dome base frame at its discontinuities.90

Burkeís paper went on to discuss other technical deficiencies and questioned how Hughes could get the PRC to propose truly effective changes to the Long March 2E rocketís fairing design.91

Burke recalls Peter Herron, who was now Program Manager for the Optus B3 satellite, telling him that Herron had provided documentation to the PRC suggesting changes to the Long March 2E rocketís fairing during the Optus B2 failure investigation.92

On July 30, 1994, Herron wrote to the PRC requesting additional information about the PRC changes to the fairing. Herron showed his letter to Burke, and asked for his views on the additional modifications proposed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. Burke says that he and others provided Herron with questions on the CALT proposed changes.93

On August 4, 1994, Hughesí Chief Technologist Al Wittmann wrote to Vice President Donald Cromer, stating that he believed the changes to the fairing proposed by the PRC were adequate for the upcoming Optus B3 launch.94

In August 1994, Burke says he attended a Hughes senior management meeting to review the changes made by the PRC to the fairing for the scheduled Optus B3 launch. The briefing slides for the meeting are dated August 8, 1994. By the time of this meeting, Burke says that Wang Dechen, the PRC designer for the Long March 2E rocket, had told him that the PRC had made improvements to the rocketís fairing. Burke further says that his review of the documents from the August 8 briefing show that the changes made were a combination of PRC ideas and Hughes ideas.95

According to Donald Leedle, responsible for Hughesí technology export controls, a design review in which Hughes provided information to the PRC should have required a State Department license.96

The Optus B3 was launched successfully on August 28, 1994, aboard a PRC Long March 2E rocket.

Apstar 2

The Apstar 2 License

On November 18, 1993, Hughes submitted an application for export license to the Bureau of Export Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. On February 1, 1994, license number D204878 was validated. The license permitted the export of one Hughes Model HS-601 commercial communications satellite to the Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Company, Ltd., Hong Kong.

The intermediate consignee was China Great Wall Industry, Beijing, PRC.

The license permitted a temporary export to China Great Wall Industry Corporation for the purpose of launch. The transaction value was $93 million.

The Commerce Department license restricted the export of detailed design, engineering, or manufacturing data to China Great Wall Industry Corporation. It further required a State Department license for activities and technical data covered by the State Department Munitions List.97

The Apstar 2 Failure

On January 26, 1995, a Long March 2E rocket, carrying the Apstar 2 satellite, manufactured by Hughes, was launched from Xichang, PRC. The Long March 2E rocket, with the satellite atop it, exploded approximately 50 seconds after liftoff.

This was the fifth flight of the Long March 2E rocket, and the second failure. The prior failure in December 1992 was of a Long March 2E rocket carrying the Optus B2 satellite, also manufactured by Hughes.

In both cases, observation of the flight data and the rocket debris indicated that an explosive force had destroyed the forward part of the rocket where the satellite and the covering fairing, which is a part of the rocket, were located.98

Because of similarities to the Optus B2 failure in 1992, Hughes engineers believed right away that the PRC rocket fairing had again failed.99 Additionally, Hughes had added instrumentation to the satellite after the Optus B2 failure. The added instrumentation helped Hughes determine the cause of the failure.100

Failure Investigation Teams

Hughes Vice President Donald Cromer appointed a Failure Investigation Team, headed by Stephen Cunningham and Peter Herron, to look into the cause of the failure. Many of the participants on this investigative team, including structural specialists Al Wittmann and Spencer Ku, also had participated in the Optus B2 failure investigation.101

The Failure Investigation Team is described in the Apstar 2 Failure Investigation Report as follows:

The first team was responsible for the overall Hughes investigation and was chartered to examine any and all aspects of the failure, including the spacecraft, perigee stage, launch vehicle integration, launch vehicle telemetry, and fairing design.

In addition, the team was responsible for all of the external interfaces, including China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), customers, insurance companies, and the U.S. Government.102

Failure Investigation Schedule

The failure investigation began immediately and continued until around June 1995. The following schedule was excerpted from the Apstar 2 Failure Investigation Report.

Back  |  Forward


pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

PRC Acquisition of U.S. Technology
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

PRC Theft of U.S. Nuclear Warhead Design Information
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

High Performance Computers
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

PRC Missile and Space Forces
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Satellite Launches in the PRC: Hughes
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Launch Site Security in the PRC
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 5 | 6

Commercial Space Insurance
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

U.S. Export Policy Toward the PRC
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Manufacturing Processes
pages 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

pages 1 | 2 | 3

pages introduction | A | B | C | D | E | F

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