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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

page 5

Hughes Tries to Get the PRC to Accept Its Findings

Hughes was still experiencing difficulty in getting the PRC to accept its findings regarding the fairing as the cause of the launch failure.

The talks between Hughes and the PRC remained at an impasse. Hughes felt that it could not afford to allow the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology to present its argument to the insurance companies and Hughesí customers, such as the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite consortium, without providing all of the evidence ó especially when the evidence pointed to a failure of the Long March 2E rocket and not the Hughes satellite.

The PRC engineers, however, did not want to present any findings that led to the conclusion that the Long March 2E fairing was to blame for the failure. The PRC engineers feared that if this were to occur, then they would not be able to get insurance for future Long March launches.

In a May 14, 1995 trip report from Peter Herron to Hughes Vice President Cromer regarding a briefing Herron attended with Professor He of the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite consortium and other APT executives, Herron stated, in part:

  • We briefed He and Bao [Bao Miaoquin, Chief Engineer of APT] on the failue investigation for about 3 hours. He made several points re: Apstar 2R.
  • Likely CASC [China Aerospace Corporation] reaction:
    • We know from history and experience that CASC is mistrustful of Hughes, especially due to the Optus failure . .
    • The future ó is there a way out? CASC wants to sell rockets and get (I didnít say buy) spacecraft technology. They know we can hurt their rocket business, and they donít think we are serious about tech transfer.
  • My only idea for a deal for both sides is:
    • Conclude that the failure was due to wind shear (winds ). That actually is our conclusion. We think the fairing works (just barely) when the winds are calm. CASC would need to do the following:
    • Pay us the outstanding $8 million from Apstar 2 incentives
    • Buy Apstar 2R from Hughes
    • Provide good design review for the (Long March) 3B and 3C fairings
  • Tilting APMT [the pending Asia Pacific Mobile Telecommunications satellite deal] our way would be a real plus.
  • We would not provide our fairing concerns to others. We would not fly on the [Long March 2E rocket] without changes, reviews, and wind tunnel tests.139

During the Hughes efforts to overcome the reluctance of the PRC to accept responsibility for the cause of the failure, Herron sent a message to his co-leader on the Hughes failure investigation team, Stephen Cunningham, on June 28, 1995. The message indicated that two Hughes employees, Shen Jun and Bruce Elbert, had conveyed a message to COSTINDís General Shen Rongjun (Shen Junís father) regarding the fairing as causing the Apstar 2 failure. (See also the section in Chapter 4, The Role of PLA General Shen Rongjun and His Son in APMT.)

In part, Herronís message stated:

Last night I talked to both KC [K.C. Lang] (in Beijing) and to Bruce Elbert/Jun Shen (in Singapore).

KC. He was bothered by the failure resolution page, because it closed out the option of compromising on the interstage or interface (between the rocket and the satellite payload) as the cause of the problem.

He said he would make a strong push to [Hughes CEO] Steve [Dorfman] and [Hughes Electronics Senior Vice President] Gareth [Chang] to have SDD [Steve Dorfman] go to PRC to negotiate for us. He referred to an unnamed source who advised him to request Steveís presence.

KC obviously feels we have to share the blame.

I said we would never do that, Gen Shen had said he would not accept a B2 [Optus B2] style compromise, and that one of the attached press clips from the insurance people said the insurance industry would not, either.

Further, it makes absolutely no sense for any Hughes exec to meet in PRC without a good basis for an agreement. (I further think the unnamed source is KC himself. He is an amiable guy who wants to please.)

Elbert and Shen. They delivered the message to Gen Shen. He was pleased to receive it. See the above phone message. Gen Shen said heíll call a meeting as soon as he is back to try and resolve the issue. Not on the phone message (from Jun) is that Gen Shen says his people believe one thing and we believe another, and that he doesnít know how to sort it out. He is willing to admit fault if he can be convinced that the fairing failed.140

The next day Cromer wrote the following letter to Hughes Electronics President Michael Armstrong, Senior Vice President Gareth Chang, and Hughes CEO Dorfman:

I believe we are now at the crossroads for resolving the Apstar failure investigation. Attatchment 1 is a summary of where we are and recommended next steps. We have provided Attachment 1 to K.C. Lang to share with key people in Beijing to stimulate a response and get their input.

Bruce Elbert was in Singapore with Jun Shen and they have already talked with Gen. Shen. He was pleased to get the input and said he would call a meeting as soon as he is back to try and resolve the issue. Gen. Shen says his people believe one thing and we believe another, and that he doesnít know how to sort it out. He is willing to admit fault if he can be convinced that the fairing failed. He also said that he was willing to work with Mike [Armstrong], Gareth [Chang], Steve [Dorfman] and Don [Cromer] to try and resolve the dilemma.

I have also attached a copy of our Independent Review Team Report (Attachment 2). It clearly supports our internal teamís conclusions about the fairing being the most probable cause of the failure.

Given all this, I believe we need to be firm and insistent that they acknowledge ëwhat isí and clear the air so we can get on with our business. The insurance community and our customers are not about to let us skate on this issue again. Any level of outside probing will quickly reveal all the facts of this accident and its close resemblance to the Optus B2 failure. Our investigation results will speak for our case. It is a well documented and substantiated investigation that clearly exonerates the spacecraft. I will keep you informed as this last critical phase unfolds, and will probably need your assistance to force a resolution in our favor.141

By July 1995, Hughes had definitively concluded that the failure of the Long March 2E rocket on the Apstar 2 launch was caused by the rocketís fairing. Specifically, Hughes determined that the aerodynamic forces from the velocity of the rocket, combined with the winds aloft and high wind shear, ripped the fairing apart.

PRC Minister Liu Jiyuan, Director of China Aerospace Corporation, reacted emotionally to statements by Hughes indicating that the Long March 2E fairing was the cause of the failure. Minister Liu, who is influential in awarding communications satellite contracts in the PRC, said that China Aerospace Corporation would never do business with Hughes again.

CIA Analyst Visits Hughes

On July 19, 1995, an analyst from the Central Intelligence Agencyís Directorate of Intelligence visited the Hughes facility in El Segundo, California, known as the "High Bay," which is an assembly and testing facility for communications satellites.142 The CIA analyst was researching a draft National Intelligence Estimate relating to the impact of technology transfers on the PRCís military capabilities.143

The CIA analyst recalls that during a tour of the High Bay, he had an opportunity to talk to a Hughes engineer about the Apstar 2 failure investigation.

During this conversation, the CIA analyst began to be concerned that, as part of Hughesí launch failure investigation, technology that could improve the PRCís Long March rockets would inevitably be transferred to the PRC.144

In discussing the failure investigation, the CIA analyst says the Hughes engineer mentioned that Hughes has provided information to the PRC that related to methods and computer modeling to reduce rocket vibration, because vibration may have been a contributing factor to the Long March 2E failure.145

The CIA analyst says he believed that any improvements in this area would certainly assist the PRC in improving the performance of its ballistic missiles.146 When he asked the Hughes engineer whether the information that Hughes was providing to the PRC might contribute to the improvement of PRC rockets, the Hughes engineer advised that this was Hughesí intent.

But Hughes officials advised, the engineer said, that all required coordination with the Commerce Department had been undertaken.147 The CIA analyst also recalls the following regarding his discussion with the Hughes engineer about the cause of the Long March 2E rocket failure during the attempted launch of the Apstar 2 satellite:

Well, the discussion was sort of concluded with a general view by the individual [the Hughes engineer] that the system had failed because of external pressure [on] the fairing, which could have been due to aerodynamic loading and/or vibrational loading, but that conclusions were based largely on modeling with imprecise or insufficient information about the fairing itself, insufficient telemetry data.

There had been a recommendation to the Chinese to conduct additional tests, including wind tunnel tests.

[T]hey had some ground-based data on the wind velocity as a function of altitude. They were recommending the Chinese try to replicate that in the wind tunnel.148

The CIA analystís recollection of his discussion with the Hughes engineer in 1995 seems consistent with the reports Hughes provided to the Commerce Department, which cited wind shear (aerodynamic loading) and vibrational (buffeting) factors as the cause of the Long March 2E failure.149

The reports Hughes provided to the PRC after approval by the Commerce Departmentís Christiansen stated in part:

The initial failure occurred in the LM-2E fairing and was due to some combination of:

* * *

Aerodynamic forces, buffeting, and/or aeroelastic effects on the launch vehicle during the transonic phase [that is, accelerating through the sound barrier] accentuated by winds aloft.

Regarding the potential transfer of technology, the CIA analyst recalls the following:

. . . I had been told actually by the Hughes people that their export license established restrictions on the flow of technology to China in that it regulated the kinds of interactions that they could have, the sort of proscripted interactions.

And what this engineer described to me was a break from that path, that people rolled up their sleeves at this point and just got together in a free-flow exchange.150

The CIA analyst recalled this about his conversation with the Hughes engineer regarding the "coupled loads" analysis that Hughes had conducted with the PRC:

. . . [The Hughes engineer] indicated that he had fully described the analysis, the process ñ not only the process that he had done, but the process that they [the PRC] should do.

In other words, the Chinese had done analysis on their own and Hughes had done analysis on its own, and for reasons which werenít fully clear to me, the two came together and they shared the results.

So it wasnít a one-way thing, it was a two-way thing; and they discussed who was right and who was wrong, but also what could be done better in the future.151

A lot of itís just basic engineering physics, but code ñ the key here, weíre talking about a big chunk of software on a big computer. The code was Hughesí proprietary code.

. . . the Chinese had told Hughes what the maximum vibrational load that the satellite would face under any normal launch circumstance would be. Hughes believed that their satellite could survive under that maximum load, but it was close. It was far in excess of the load estimated by the Russians or the French, and certainly way in excess of the U.S. And so if they exceed that by much, that could be a problem. So part of his effort was to make sure it didnít exceed that or did exceed that.152

A ëConsolidated Solutioní

On July 23, 1995, Hughes and the PRC released a joint press statement regarding the Apstar 2 failure. The statement was signed by PRC Minister Liu and Hughes CEO Dorfman.

In the statement, Hughes and the PRC essentially agreed to disagree over the cause of the failure. Hughes cited high winds affecting the fairing as the most probable cause of the accident. The PRC cited a satellite and rocket interface problem. The release, the text of which follows, was signed by Dorfman and Liu:






23 July 1995

Apstar 2, an HS-601 communications satellite built by Hughes Space and Communications International, Inc. (HSCI), was launched by an LM-2E launch vehicle provided by PRC Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) at Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 26 January 1995. After a normal flight for about fifty seconds, an explosion occurred and resulted in the total loss of both the launch vehicle and the satellite.

After the failure, experts and engineers from CGWIC

and HSCI have exerted extensive, scientific and earnest

investigations for the past six months to pinpoint the cause

of the failure.

Both CGWIC and HSCI confirm that the launch met the requirements stated in the Apstar 2/LM-2E Interface Control Document.

CGWIC and HSCI concluded in their reports that there are two (2) possible causes for the failure:

1. Under the shear wind aloft conditions in winter season, the resonance exerted due to the unique interface of the satellite and the upper stage with the launch vehicle caused local

structural damage to the satellite.

2. Under the shear winds aloft conditions in winter season, the fairing of the launch vehicle suffered local structural damage.

In the spirit of being responsible to the customers and the space insurance community, CGWIC and HSCI will work together to eliminate the above mentioned possible causes of failure and to enhance the monitoring of shear wind aloft before launch.

CGWIC and HSCI reaffirm their long term and friendly cooperation and are determined to continue with confidence to expand the cooperation in areas of mutual business interests.153

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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