Satellite Launches in the PRC: Hughes
The Need For A License
At the outset of the investigation, Hughes officials considered that a State Department license might be needed in order to conduct the failure investigation even though the launch had been licensed by the Commerce Department.104
Soon after the failure investigation began, Hughes provided the State Department a satellite debris recovery plan for the failure. On February 3, 1995, Hughes attorney Jennifer Smolker wrote to inform the Commerce Department of the launch failure, stating that future discussions with the PRC might require a State Department license and that Hughes would submit a State Department license, if necessary.105
On February 21, 1995, Donald Leedle, Hughesí Technology Export Control Coordinator, sent a memorandum to Apstar 2 Program Manager Mike Hersman and attorney Smolker regarding the failure investigation. Leedleís memorandum stated that the Commerce Department license only authorized the transfer of certain data.106
As had been done in connection with the Optus B2 failure investigation, Leedleís memorandum stated that Hughes was initiating informal communications with the State Department to determine whether a license would be required. The memorandum also stated that Hughes was awaiting data from Herron, who was working on the failure investigation, before formally applying for any such license. Finally, Leedle wrote that he had met with Commerce Department licensing officer Gene Christiansen and learned that, except for minor satellite data, all other data to be exchanged with the PRC fell under State Department jurisdiction.107
Christiansen says that, when Hughes officials initially approached him following the Apstar 2 launch failure, they communicated to him that they only wanted to share basic "form, fit, and function" data with the PRC. Leedle recalls that in his early discussion with Christiansen regarding information requested by the PRC, Christiansen stated that with the exception of limited satellite and telemetry data, all other PRC requested data would require a State Department license.108
Despite the shift to Commerce Department in 1993 of licensing jurisdiction for certain commercial satellites, the State Department still was solely responsible in 1995 for the licensing of any technical data that could improve PRC rockets.109 Leedle, whose responsibilities at Hughes included technology export controls, acknowledges having been aware at the time that any rocket improvements required a State Department license.110
Leedleís statement is consistent with a document that Hughesí Dar Weston, a specialist in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, sent to Apstar 2 Program Manager Mike Hersman on January 3, 1994. The document described the provisions of the Apstar 1 and 2 licenses, and the restrictions in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, and stated that no detailed design, production, or manufacturing data may be released. The document also stated that such information is controlled by the State Department, regardless of which agency has jurisdiction over the satellite, and that release of such information would require specific Office of Defense Trade Controls approval of a separate application.111
Leedle recalls that Hughesí Washington, D.C. representative, Joe Rougeau, made informal contact with the State Department following the Apstar 2 launch failure. He says Rougeau initiated the State Department contacts because Hughes was unsure in the early stages of the investigation whether a State Department or a Commerce Department license was needed for the investigation.112
The role of Hughesí Chief Technologist, Al Wittmann, in the Apstar 2 failure investigation was essentially the same as in the Optus B2 investigation. Wittmann, who had proposed the modifications to the Long March 2E rocket after the Optus B2 failure, says he recognized by looking at photographs of the Apstar 2 debris that changes to the Long March 2E rocketís fairing had been made by the PRC since Optus B2. He says the changes were obviously insufficient.113
Wittman said that the PRC had not implemented all the changes he had suggested for the Optus B3 launch in 1994.114 Following the Optus B2 failure, Hughes engineers recommended reinforcing the fairing. But the Select Committee learned that the PRC chose to install additional rivets instead of structural changes. The Select Committee understands that the PRC did not implement the recommended changes to reinforce the fairing prior to the Apstar 2 launch because to do so would have been an admission of fault in the Optus B2 failure.
Wittmannís analysis immediately focused on the fairing as the cause of the Apstar 2 launch failure. He says that, had the PRC implemented all his suggested changes to the Optus B3, the Apstar 2 would not have failed to achieve orbit.115
According to Wittmann, he and the PRC engineers viewed the fairing structure differently. The PRC viewed the nose cone portion of the fairing as a one-piece, complete hemisphere. Wittmann, on the other hand, says the nose cone was manufactured in two sections with a slit in the middle.116
Commerce Department Conference
On March 3, 1995, Hughes personnel met with Commerce Department licensing officer Christiansen and his supervisor, Jerry Beiter, regarding the Apstar 2 failure investigation.117
Beiter was then the Chief Technology Officer at the Commerce Department. The following Hughes employees attended the meeting: Peter Herron, co-leader of Hughesí failure investigation team; Donald Leedle, Hughesí Technology Export Control Coordinator; Pat Bowers, an assistant to the Director of International Affairs, Donald Majors; and Sara Jones, an export control officer at Hughes. Bowers was responsible primarily for dealing with the State Department on licensing issues.118 Jones was primarily responsible for coordinating licenses with the Commerce Department.119
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss proper licensing jurisdiction relating to the Apstar 2 failure investigation.
Beiterís recollection of the meeting is that the Hughes representatives wanted to learn what information they could discuss with the PRC related to the failure investigation. He says that information related to rockets was covered by State Department jurisdiction during this period. Beiter also recalls that at the meeting the Hughes representatives mainly wanted permission to raise topics with the PRC related to their satellite.120
Beiter specifically recalls advising Hughes at the meeting that any data regarding the design of the PRC rocket would require a State Department license. He also says that he has no doubt that the Hughes representatives were well aware at the time of the meeting that information related to the fairing had to be licensed by the State Department.121
At the end of the meeting, the Hughes and Commerce Department officials agreed, according to Leedle, that any data that could improve the PRC rocket would require a State Department license.122
Sara Jones, of Hughesí Washington, D.C. office, recalls attending the meeting on March 3, 1995 with Beiter and Christiansen. Jones had prepared the Apstar 2 Commerce Department application. She says she was present at the meeting because she was the Hughes Commerce Department liaison. Jones recalls that she was not conversant with the technical aspects discussed at the meeting.123
Jones says that the purpose of the meeting was to determine whether the Commerce Department was the appropriate licensing authority for the Apstar 2 failure investigation. She adds that an additional purpose was to determine whether the data Hughes wanted to transfer to the PRC should be licensed by the Commerce Department or the State Department.124
According to Jones, the meeting was mainly devoted to a discussion of the Hughes satellite as part of the failure investigation. She says that Hughes representatives were there to discuss the satellite because Hughes built the satellite.125
Jones stated that she was aware that Hughes was prohibited from advising the PRC about correcting problems related to its rockets. Jones advises that knowledge of this rocket prohibition was fairly standard information within Hughes.126
Bowers, Hughesí State Department liaison in Washington, D.C., says that any time detailed design, development, production, or manufacturing technical data was involved, a State Department license would be required, although someone had to determine whether the data was "detailed." 127
A memorandum of this meeting with Christiansen and Beiter was prepared six days later, on March 9, 1995, by the Hughes official responsible for technology export controls, Donald Leedle. Leedle, however, says that he probably drafted it with assistance from Peter Herron, one of the leaders of the Apstar 2 failure investigation, due to the technical nature of the issues discussed.128 Leedleís memorandum included no indication that Hughes officials at the meeting advised Christiansen or Beiter that they had any indication that the Long March 2E fairing had caused the Apstar 2 failure.
Same Fairing Failure Identified by Hughes
Hughes engineer Spencer Ku was Hughesí principal structural investigator on the Apstar 2 failure investigation.129
Ku had suggested fairing design fixes to Al Wittmann, Hughesí Chief Technologist, during the Optus B2 investigation in 1993.130
Ku says that, after arriving in the PRC to review the Apstar 2 debris in 1995, he could tell by observation that the fairing had indeed been modified since the 1992 failure.131
On April 7, 1995, Ku briefed Stephen Cunningham and Peter Herron, the co-leaders of the failure investigation, that as in the Optus B2 failure, his analysis was pointing to the fairing as the cause of the Apstar 2 failure. Ku says the changes made by the PRC in the number of rivets had not been adequate to prevent the Apstar 2 launch failure.132
On April 18, 1995, Ku wrote a memorandum to Cunningham describing how the fairing caused the Apstar 2 launch to fail.133
A ëPoliticalí Business Solution, Again?
As in the aftermath of the 1992 failure, Hughes executives were quite concerned about the sensitivity the PRC attached to placing any blame on the rocket for the Apstar 2 accident. On April 4, 1995, Hughes Electronics Senior Vice President Gareth Chang wrote a memorandum to Hughes CEO Steven Dorfman regarding the Apstar 2 failure, stating:
As we get closer to reaching a conclusion on the cause of the Apstar 2 launch failure I am concerned that we think through all of our actions so that we minimize fallout to the greatest possible extent. I would like to make the following suggestions:
First, we need to personally share our findings with the Chinese leadership. A senior Hughes executive, armed with detailed scientific and technical evidence, should meet with General Shen of COSTIND and Chairman Liu of CASC before anything is said to the media.
Statements to the media should only be made by highly qualified, senior technical experts with easy-to-follow evidence. Our case must be convincing, logical and credible. Local managers and PR consultants should do no more than field media questions and transmit them to California or hand out properly approved media materials.
Care needs to be taken to properly brief the insurance industry on our findings, either just before or concurrent with the media briefings.
Our findings will receive worldwide media attention and will undoubtedly be challenged by a variety of people. We need to be thoroughly prepared ó and to respond in a thoughtful and professional manner.
We cannot allow this accident to damage our relationships in China ó or anywhere else in the world ó especially in view of several near-term satellite and regional service opportunities.
I suggest the appropriate people get together within the next few days to make sure that we have all of our ducks in a row.134
As of late April 1995, Hughes had identified several problems associated with the Long March 2E fairing.
In crafting a suitable approach for the discussions, a strategy memorandum on the subject was sent on April 20, 1995. Peter Herron, in his capacity as co-leader of the Hughes failure investigation team, sent a document to Hughes Vice President Donald Cromer containing in part the following points:
ï Offer to brief CALT in advance of Intíl team meeting due to revised emphasis on fairing as cause of the failure.
ï Emphasize to Chinese that:
ó We helped them get into the business
ó Improved their U.S./PRC agreement
ó We need to get on with the business of launch (sic)
Hughes satellites on Long March launchers.135
The Commerce Department Approves Data Release to the PRC
On April 28, 1995, Peter Herron, Donald Leedle, and Tony Colucci of Hughes met again with Christiansen at the Commerce Department to bring him up to date on the progress of the Apstar 2 failure investigation.
A May 9, 1995 memorandum by Leedle regarding the meeting explains that Hughes had concluded its analysis of the failure and was requesting that the Commerce Department review the information regarding its conclusion prior to making the failure analysis available to the PRC.136
Notwithstanding the agreement with Christiansen in March that the State Department had licensing jurisdiction for any technical data regarding the rocket, Herron, Leedle, and Colucci presented Christiansen charts outlining the inadequacies of the Long March 2E rocketís fairing design that they proposed to present to the PRC.137
Hughes Technology Export Control Coordinator Leedle describes his companyís intentions for this approach to the Commerce Department as follows:
Q: Did he [Peter Herron, Hughesí co-leader of the failure investigation] give you any indication at all that he or anyone one else at Hughes intended to communicate to the Chinese that improvements were needed in the fairing?
A: Again, we are talking about the word ëimprovements.í Our results of the findings were that there were deficiencies in the design of the fairing that we thought were the probable causes of failure. Thatís all that I think we could comment on.
Q: Okay. Do you recall at the time whether or not you believed that any information related to the fairing, especially if it was going to be communicated to the Chinese, required a Department of State license?
A: No, I donít think we did.
Leedle acknowledges being aware at the time that improvements to the PRCís rocket required a State Department license. He says, however, that he and Herron nonetheless decided to rely on Christiansenís determination of Commerceís jurisdiction to approve passage of the data.138 At the meeting, Christiansen advised that the fairing-related charts could be passed to the PRC. The charts presented to Christiansen expressed the same concerns that Hughes had expressed to the PRC in 1993 about the need for stronger rivets on the fairing. According to a Hughes official the conclusions in the charts could be helpful to the PRC, but the Defense Technology Security Administration had granted a similar approval in 1993.
The same official acknowledges that two of the fairing-related problems were not discussed with the Defense Technology Security Administration in 1993.
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