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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 6

Final Failure Investigation Report Released to the PRC by the Commerce Department

On August 15, 1995, Peter Herron, co-leader of the Hughes failure investigation team, wrote a letter to Commerce Department licensing officer Gene Christiansen enclosing the following documents:

  • The final Hughes Long March 2E Apstar 2 failure investigation report
  • The Hughes Independent Spacecraft Review Team Final Report
  • An executive summary of the Hughes failure investigation

The cover letter mentioned that Herron and Donald Leedle, Hughesí Technology Export Control Coordinator, planned to meet with Christiansen on August 17 to discuss releasing these documents to the PRC.

The Executive Summary of the Hughes failure investigation stated:

As part of the Apstar 2 failure investigation, an independent review team was formed with a charter to review all aspects of the failure and provide an interface with the International Oversight Team. The six member team, led by Ernest La Porte, has had an extensive experience base in launch vehicles, spacecraft, fairings, and launch operations. The review period was from February to June 1995.

The major findings are that the spacecraft and interstage were not the cause of the failure, but the fairing is the most probable cause.

It is clear from the telemetry record that the LM-2E fairing suffered catastrophic failure at a time when the payload was intact and undamaged. The LM-2E booster fairing failed due to deficient design with respect to aerodynamic loads caused by high winds and wind shear.

The most probable failure scenario was initiated by high aerodynamic loads initially causing the fairing downrange vertical separation line to open and the dome to crack. As the fairing continued to collapse, it caused the spacecraft structure to fail, crushing the propellant tanks. The resulting fire caused the destruction of the spacecraft and the secondary destruction of the booster.

The most probable root cause of the failure is the deficiency in the fairing longitudinal split line design requirements and/or design. The causes of the Optus B2 failure in December 1992 and the Apstar 2 failure in January 1995 are identical.

There are a number of concerns relative to the design of the LM-2E fairing. These include the rivet strength of the separation zipper, the nose cap split line and the hammerhead fairing aerodynamic shape. There are additional concerns regarding the launch vehicle to spacecraft interfaces, such as design of the launch vehicle Marmon clamp separation band, fairing vent area, flying a high angle of attack and lack of detailed launch weather criteria.

The major recommendation is for [Hughes] to require major design reviews for new launch vehicles such as Proton, LM-3B, and Delta 3. Also [Hughes] should require the launch vehicle supplier to be responsive, cooperative and open to requests for design and test data.154

In response, Christiansen sent a Commerce Department form to Leedle on August 24, 1995 indicating that Hughes was authorized to release the Apstar 2 reports to the PRC. The form, called a Commodity Classification Form, stated:

These two reports and executive summary have been reviewed and determined to contain no design or production data specific to the spacecraft, the launch vehicle or the interface of these two systems.155

The Commodity Classification form also stated that the data simply documented the findings of the PRCís telemetry and utilized a logic sequence to fix the probable cause of the failure, without instructing how to redesign the fairing.156

Although Sara Jones of Hughesí Washington, D.C. office was responsible for applying for Commerce Department licenses, it was Leedle who went directly to Christiansen to obtain the Commerce Department Commodity Classification approval for the Apstar 2 report. Jones states that Leedle had not handled a Commerce Department commodity classification himself in the past.157

Christiansen acknowledges that he knew, at the time he developed the Commodity Classification approval, that data concerning PRC rockets required a State Department license.158

Christiansen also testifies that Hughes was prohibited by the Commerce Department Commodity Classification Approval from providing data to the PRC related to technical design, rocket production, or anything related to the rocket. He adds that it was also incumbent upon Hughes to limit the scope of its discussion with PRC personnel, and to determine whether a State Department license was required.159

Christiansen acknowledges that he chose not to initiate any discussion or review of the matter with State Department or Defense Department officials before granting approval for Hughes to provide the fairing information and report to the PRC. The basis for this, he says, is that the Hughes information contained no design or production data. Christiansen acknowledges that his approval was a mistake, since the Hughes report represents an in-depth analysis of the design deficiencies of the fairing, and the executive summary discusses design changes that should be made to the fairing for future PRC launches.160

The PRC Long March rocket was still on the State Department Munitions list when Christiansen granted the approvals. Nonetheless, Hughes officials asked Christiansen if he would approve the materials for release, and he did.

Implementing the ëConsolidated Solutioní

On October 17, 1995, Hughes employees K.C. Lang and Nissen Davis prepared a trip report regarding a visit by Hughes Electronics CEO Michael Armstrong and Senior Vice President Gareth Chang to the PRC between October 9 and 12. The report stated, in part:

[Meeting with] GEN. Shen Rongjun, Deputy Director, Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND)

Launch Failure Investigation. Both sides need to examine and correct all possible causes. Shen has insisted on

destruction testing the new LM-2E fairing design and hoped Hughes would do likewise for its new interface design. CMA [C. Michael Armstrong] said he and Chang would take personal responsibility for a consolidated solution communicated to insurance industry in Munich at end of October. [Armstrong] will convene meeting in L.A. on Oct 17, the day he returns to US, to achieve complete team agreement on ëconsolidated

solution.í Chang and Herron are principals to insure coordination.

[Meeting with] Min Liu Jiyuan, President of China Aerospace Corporation (CASC)

Launch failure. [Armstrong] related agreement with Shen that consolidated solution is best. Chinese should accept Hughes engineering conclusions and Hughes should accept theirs. Joint approach should be presented to market and insurance community. Liu agreed but worried whether Hughes people will honor agreement. Before statement goes to Munich it should be tested in Beijing with HSC. [Armstrong] assumed personal responsibility for accountability, named G. Chang andPeter Herron to manage project for him.161

By December 1995, Hughesí Independent Review Team had concluded that the probable cause of the failure was the fairingís longitudinal split line design requirements, the design itself, or both. The causes of the Optus B2 failure in December 1992 and Apstar 2 failure in January 1995, they found, were identical.

Hughes and the PRC agreed on a solution to address all concerns. Hughes agreed to modify the interface adapter, and the PRC agreed to strenghten the fairing and enhance the monitoring of high altitude wind conditions.

The PRC still refused, however, to accept the findings of Hughesí Independent Review Team that the fairing was the cause of the failure.

Moreover, the international insurance community expressed some skepticism regarding the PRCís claim that it had corrected the problem with the fairing. This was because the PRC stated that its repairs were completed in summer 1995, well before the final failure analysis was completed.

U.S. Government Actions Following the Apstar 2 Launch Failure

On January 26, 1995, the day of the Apstar 2 launch failure, U.S. Air Force Major Victor J. Villhard prepared a report stating that there were no technology safeguards in place for the Apstar 2 failure investigation.162 He also stated that, since Apstar 2 had been exported under a Commerce Department license, no U.S. Government monitoring to prevent technology transfer had been required.

The memorandum outlined the possible technology gains for the PRC that could result from the lack of guidelines.163

Mark N. Rochlin was a Defense Technology Security Administration monitor for Motorola Iridium launches in the PRC in 1995. On May 31, 1995, he wrote a memorandum for the record in which he described incidents of technology transfer that he observed in Beijing in March and April 1995.164 The memorandum stated:

SUBJECT: Long March Accident Investigation

1. During my last two trips to Beijing in March and April, I had the opportunity to hear failure investigation briefings presented by China Great Wall Industries Corp and the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CGWIC and CALT). These briefings were presented to launch service buyers other than Hughes, and were in significant detail.

2. It is my opinion, based upon the briefings and from

discussions with Mr. Gao Rufei (CGWIC) that the technical exchange that has already occurred with Hughes exceeds the conditions of the license issued to Hughes by the Department of Commerce. Future discussion necessary to continue the investigation will grow increasingly technical and will be similarly out of bounds. It has been revealed by Space Systems Loral, that they have been asked to perform a role in the investigation and that they are concerned about the character of the work being performed and their requirement to adhere to established guidelines. It follows that it is necessary for the United States Government to ensure compliance with the conditions of the license and the appropriate investigative agencies become involved.

3. CGWIC and Space Systems Loral were reminded of the Government to Government Agreement that provided for tech safeguards and of the personal liability to adhere to established guidelines.


Mark N. Rochlin

Lieutenant Colonel, US Army

Assistant for Aerospace Technology


Col Alexandrow, DTSA [Defense Technology Security Administration]

Mr. Maloof, DTSA

Col Oldenburg, Dept of State, OES/STH [Office of Oceans and

International Environmental and Scientific Affairs/Office of Science,

Technology, and Health] 165

Rochlin says that, during the meeting in Beijing, he was told that Loral had been approached by Hughes to participate in the Apstar 2 failure investigation.166 Rochlin says that it was apparent to him from the comments of Loralís Nick Yen that Hughes had already transferred significant technical information to the PRC in the Apstar 2 investigation and Loral was concerned about the technical areas Hughes was getting into, because he knew that only a Commerce Department license was in effect for the Apstar 2.167

Rochlin also says that Gao Rufei of China Great Wall Industry Corporation had mentioned the coupled loads analysis on Apstar 2. Based on the nature of the information Gao discussed, Rochlin believed that a State Department license was required.

Rochlin says he told a Loral representative and a representative of China Great Wall Industry Corporation that he believed that Hughes had already acted outside the scope of its Commerce Department license. He reminded both representatives that they should adhere to the U.S./PRC government-to-government agreements, and that they were personally liable for violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.168

Rochlin says he retired from the Army several days after writing the memorandum, so he does not know whether the Defense Technology Security Administration took any action based on it. However, he says he did discuss the incidents and the information in the memorandum with the agencyís Director, David Tarbell, and the Deputy Director, Peter Sullivan. He further recalls giving a copy of the memorandum to Michael Maloof, who was the Defense Technology Security Agency point of contact for coordination with enforcement agencies, to whom Rochlin believed such information might be referred for investigation.169

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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