ad info

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards



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

Commercial Space Insurance

page 2

The underwriters for the Apstar-1A program became disappointed that the PRCís failure review committees did not have foreign or Intelsat representatives.26 The French launch vehicle provider Arianespace, for example, typically creates an independent review committee after a launch failure to ensure international credibility and distance Arianespace from the review process. "This is interpreted by Westerners as CALT [the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] wanting to ëhideí the results of the failure review and avoid independent international scrutiny," the underwriters said.27

J & H Marsh McLennanís OíConnor advised the PRC representatives that a typical schedule of an independent review committee for an Ariane failure would entail assessing the mission and setting up the review committee within the first week. Approximately two weeks later, a report of the committeeís findings would be provided to Arianespace and the European Space Agency. Lastly, the committee would provide a briefing to customers and insurance underwriters regarding the failure investigation. Detailed information releases to relevant parties would follow.28

OíConnor praised China Great Wall Industry Corporation for its general dissemination of information relating to the failure to its customers and other parties. He also stressed, however, the importance of allowing J & H Marsh & McLennan to distribute information releases to the insurance underwriters on behalf of China Great Wall Industry Corporation. This step would, he urged, ensure that there is no delay in the release of information.29

OíConnor outlined specific items that must be satisfied for reinsurers to continue to underwrite the Apstar-1A program. The reinsurers must:

    • "Receive fully detailed information concerning the very root cause(s) of the [Intelsat 708] mission failure and the solutions"
    • "Receive the advice of an independent organization concerning the analysis of the failure, and the solutions set forth by China Great Wall Industry Corporation "

The reinsurers, OíConnor explained, believed that Intelsat should be considered to fill the role of an independent organization. China Great Wall Industry Corporation and the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology continued to receive, OíConnor noted, "strong international criticism . . . for failing to have an international, independent failure review team." 30

OíConnor advised China Great Wall Industry Corporation that reinsurers had stated that the Apstar-1A program would not proceed until these concerns were satisfied.31 On March 8, 1996, European underwriter Reliance Assurances stated to OíConnor: "We firmly believe that such a determination, together with an explanation of and concurrence with the appropriate corrective measures, is necessary to undertake an objective analysis of the insurance risk as it exists at this point in time." 32

On March 11, 1996, Henry Stackpole, III, of Loral in Tokyo wrote that "SS/L [Loral] has . . . offered ëin houseí assistance if desired in the investigation but doubt seriously it would be accepted. We appear to be clear of any Chinese thought that the satellite was a causal factor." 33

A presentation at the Apstar-1A program insurance meeting was scheduled for March 14 and 15, 1996, in Beijing and included insurance market requirements. Attendees included:

    • Representatives from 11 reinsurers
    • J & H Marsh & McLennan
    • China Great Wall Industry Corporation

According to J & H Marsh & McLennan presentation materials, requirements included an open and thorough investigation and an independent committee consisting of well-recognized industrial people.34

The French underwriting community identified three specific issues as the minimum necessary to raise the level of confidence sufficiently to insure future launches of the Long March 3B. The requirements were to reassess China Great Wall Industry Corporationís qualification, acceptance, and quality assurance programs, and to conduct a demonstration flight of the Long March 3B. "It seems obvious to the underwriters that the next Long March 3B launch is not insurable." 35

On March 20, 1996, J & H Marsh & McLennanís Masson wrote Professor Bao Miaoqin, chief engineer of the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co. whose Hughes-manufactured Apstar 1A satellite was the next scheduled launch of a Long March rocket (the Long March 3):

The Underwriters do not believe that the limitation of the IRC [Independent Review Committee] to one body constitutes a problem. The SS/L [Loral] capability and expertise in the field of launch vehicles [rockets] constitute[s] an issue, however.

The integrity of Loral and its expertise in the satellite system and launch vehicle interface design is well recognized, but the lack of clear and recognized launch vehicle expertise will put in question the validity of Loralís conclusions, however. This limitation constitutes a problem for the French Underwriters.

In [sic] the other hand, Tim Wright has questioned other European Underwriters. The reaction he got from the leader Munich Re is opposite to the French position. This limitation is acceptable providing that the expertise of each member of the Loral team is clearly identified.

We have now three Underwriters with a negative position against one Underwriter. To solve this problem, we have investigated with the French Underwriters if there is other option.

The ideal option for these Underwriters is to have an IRC that is formed by individual people who have an expertise in the launch vehicle system well recognized by the space industry.

This type of committee set up is ideal for Underwriters because it insures the expertise of the IRC and its independence. It should be noted that all independent failure reviews for western launch vehicles are constituted with individual people and not by company or organization as Intelsat.

Ideally the committee should be formed with four people, two from Europe and two from USA. The member[s] should not have an active position in the space industry but should be retired senior members. Their expertise should be recognized by the space industry and space insurance leaders . . . .

We recommend to create the IRC with Loral people and try in parallel to add two or three individual members to the IRC. In this condition, if we are not able to add more members we will have a lowest requirement satisfy [sic] for the meeting. However, if we succeed to add the individual members, we will constitute a perfect IRC.

If a decision is taken to follow this recommendation, we can quickly set up and submit a list of individuals who could be approached to become a member of the IRC. We have already identified some individuals in France who are potential members. The reason we are limiting our list to French experts, is that France is the leader in the Ariane program with more than 60%. Most of the experts in launch system are in France.

In order to succeed, it is very important that we react very quickly. The IRC should be formed in 2 or 3 days, no more. We can offer a full support here in Paris to help to identify and approach the selected individuals if it becomes necessary.

After having setup the IRC, we will need to define the mission of the IRC and prepare an action plan so that the IRC could formulate a conclusion for the meeting in Beijing.

We think necessary that the IRC shall gather in Beijing for one week to assess the work performed by the different failure review boards.

One important key to the success of the IRC, is the full access to the information and data.36

On March 20, 1996, and in a subsequent message dated March 21, 1996, to the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co., Masson identified three potential members of the Independent Review Committee: one each from Aerospatiale, Matra Marconi, and Arianespace. Each was an expert in rocket operations and in conducting in-depth failure reviews, and was retired from the private space industry.

None of the individuals had been contacted, however, pending the proper authorization from China Great Wall Industry Corporation and the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. Messr. Bignier, a leading figure in the French and European space industry and a consultant to La Reunion Spatiale who had visited the PRC twice and was familiar with the PRC space industry and "the difficult position where are CGWIC and CALT today," had also been contacted and asked to support the creation of the Independent Review Committee.37

On March 21, 1996, Chuck Rudd, Senior Vice President of ACE Limited, a Bermuda-based underwriter, wrote Sheila Nicoll at J & H March & McLennan that ACE had been informed (by an unidentified source) that Intelsat would provide technical expertise and familiarity with China Great Wall Industry Corporation to the Independent Review Committee. Intelsat, he said, "provides a level of comfort that the failure investigation will be complete and unbiased." 38

On the same day, ACE Limited officially advised J & H Marsh & McLennan that "the launch failure of the Long March 3B [constitutes] a material increase in the risk of loss under the Apstar 1A launch policy." ACE Limited stated that it found the actions of both the customer for the planned Apstar 1A launch, the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co., and the launch services provider, China Great Wall Industry Corporation, to be unacceptable:

The rushed invitation to attend the failure briefing confirmed to us that CGWIC [China Great Wall Industry Corporation] is not pursuing proper due diligence following a loss.

Consequently, we firmly believe that concurrence by Intelsat of the cause and correction of the failure is paramount.

In the event the information is incomplete and/or not fully [reviewed] by an independent party, ACE Limited will have no alternative but to cancel its participation. [in the Apstar 1A syndicate].39

Toward the end of March 1996, Intelsat declined to participate in the failure review. One J & H Marsh & McLennan official thought the decision was consistent with Intelsatís cancellation, after the Long March 3B-Intelsat 708 failure, of future Intelsat launches on PRC rockets until 2000.40

J & H Marsh & McLennanís OíConnor wrote Professor Bao Miaoqin of the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co. that:

The reinsurers have stated that the IOCís [International Oversight Committee, i.e., the IRC] review of the failure investigation is a mandatory item to be implemented before the technical briefing.

Reinsurers are asking what is the status of Intelsat in the IOC. J & H has to provide reinsurers with a firm and final explanation, tomorrow, Tuesday, April 2 so we can ask APT to coordinate a response through CGWIC [China Great Wall Industry Corporation] . . .41

There is no doubt about the launch agencyís capability to meet the deadlines for the preparation of materials and formation of an independent international oversight committee but APT is lock and load on going ahead at this time due to absolutely strict project and financial timelines. APT has zero tolerance to further delays.42

The following day, April 2, 1996, OíConnor again wrote Professor Bao Miaoqin:

IOC ñ we have received further inquiries from reinsurers today about the status and membership of one IOC. To date, we have not received any notification from CGWIC [China Great Wall Industry Corporation] on this matter and wish to remind the parties of the serious nature of this matter.

We have not been authorized by CGWIC to approach the European candidates for the IOC membership. This matter must be settled as a matter of urgency ñ it cannot be delayed until April 9.43

On the same day, April 2, 1996, Professor Bao Miaoqin wrote J & H Marsh & McLennan and China Great Wall Industry Corporation asking for a list of the Apstar-1A reinsurers and Independent Review Committee members by April 9, 1996.44

According to J & H Marsh & McLennanís Masson, who wrote his colleague OíConnor on April 3, the underwriting community wanted "minimum conditions to be satisfied" in order to confirm insurance commitments with respect to the

upcoming Apstar-1A. Masson wrote to OíConnor:

The UWs [underwriters] will be very critical in their assessment for two reasons:

a) The previous failures of the [Long March 2E rocket] didnít leave a good souvenir [sic] in the UW mind. The failure reviews were not conclusive, there was no verification by an International Oversight Committee (IOC) and although the two last flights were successful, nobody was able to demonstrate why the flights were successful. Most of the UWs will let no chance to approximate conclusion. UWs are saying that for the first failure they were flexible, for the second failure they were less flexible but they gave a last chance. Now for the third failure, there is no place for any flexibility.

b) The first element from the review board show clearly that the failure affects a single point of failure. Most of the main Western launchers (Ariane, Delta, Atlas) have a redundant Inertial platform. Single point of failure is not acceptable for western specification but there is some provisions to cope with them. Either you remove it or you demonstrate without any doubt that your reliability level of your unit is such that it is acceptable compared to the overall system reliability. Because it is out of the question that CGWIC [China Great Wall Industry Corporation] and CALT [the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] soon add a redundant Inertial Platform, we have to deal with the second option. UWs will be very serious about the way CGWIC and CALT addresses this single point of failure.

From the above reasons, we can define the minimum set of requirements needed to ensure a reasonable chance that UWs are confirming their commitment:

1) The Preflight meeting shall provide clear conclusions which are subject to no controversy. These conclusions shall be supported by a detailed and clear demonstration. The level of the conclusion shall be enough to support an isolation analysis for the [Long March 3]. This last point means that it will be acceptable to UWs to wait for the [Long March 3B] recovery plan, but it is out of question that all causes are not identified and demonstrated for the [Long March 3] isolation analysis. In other words, saying that the electrical motor is the cause of the problem is not enough. We shall know why the motor failed.

2) The isolation analysis will be of key analysis. UWs are not expecting to listen [to] a set of arguments telling that the two platforms are different and that [Long March 3] platform has flown more than thirty times. This is a single point of failure and this type of argument is not acceptable. If it appears that the electrical motor is the most probable cause of failure, then the same problem could happen to the [Long March 3] platform. UWs are expecting a detailed reliability analysis demonstrating what is the real level of reliability of this platform. I think however that such analysis does not need to be finished for the Preflight meeting in Beijing. At this meeting CGWIC and CALT shall show that such study is underway and that its conclusions will be ready soon (2 to 4 weeks) and in any case before Apstar-1A launch. UWs will then subject their commitment to satisfactory conclusions. We shall take some provision in the planning to let the UW to review this analysis (1 week).

3) Just after the news of the failure of the flight Intelsat-708 was made public, the UWs required the setting up of an IOC (Independent Oversight Committee) [that is, the IRC]. This is a common practice for any failure with any wester launch vehicle failure, but because there was no IOC to provide any conclusion for the previous flightsí failure, UWs made strong comments that one condition before they agree to any conclusions, is that the work of the failure review board being reviewed and agreed by an IOC. The composition and the mandate of this IOC should be subject to UW approval. The UWs understand very well that it is not possible that the IOC will [have] proved their conclusions at the pre-flight in Beijing March 15, 16. The time available is not sufficient. However, as a minimum condition, they want to see that the IOC has been formed and that the mandate has been officially defined. Furthermore they will request that the IOC conclusion to be known before the launch of APSTAR-1A for they [sic] review. UWs expect a clear commitment from the Chinese official[s] which guarantee[s] that whatever the conclusions should be, the IOC will be free to publish their conclusion. UWs expect with the forming of the IOC a sign of openness from CGWIC and CALT.45

On April 4, 1996, J & H Marsh & McLennan stated that it had "not received any official advice" from China Great Wall Industry Corporation that the Independent Review Committee would be formed, "and if and when itís formed, as to who will be invited." The J & H Marsh & McLennan Beijing office was instructed to act as a liaison for continuing communication with China Great Wall Industry Corporation officials in this regard.

OíConnor wrote on April 4, 1996, that "[i]t is difficult for us to prompt China Great Wall Industry Corporation any more than we have (which has been on a daily basis)." J & H Marsh & McLennan was "awaiting the decision of China Great Wall Industry Corporation on the final list of the space industry experts who will participate in the International Oversight Committee (IOC)."

In an issues paper for the April 15 and 16 meetings prepared by J & H Marsh & McLennan, Masson and OíConnor noted that "[r]einsurers have insisted that an IOC [Independent Oversight Committee, i.e., the IRC] be formed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology to oversee the failure review for the [Intelsat] 708 mission failure. It is standard practice for Western launch service providers to establish an IOC immediately after a mission failure." 46

Reinsurers made the formation of an Independent Review Committee an "absolute requirement" prior to approval of the Apstar-1A launch campaign, since the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology had previously failed to use an Independent Review Committee for failure reviews: "[t]he [Long March 3B-Intelsat 708] failure review must be reviewed and endorsed by an IOC." Reinsurers would interpret a refusal as a sign of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technologyís reluctance to be open about its failure review.47 Furthermore, J & H Marsh & McLennan believed that the minimum requirements regarding the Independent Review Committee were:

    • That it be created with a defined mission prior to the April 15 and 16, 1996, insurance meeting
    • That its membership be independent and international, with unrestricted review authority
    • That the final report be published and reviewed by reinsurers prior to the launch of Apstar-1A48

On April 4, 1996, OíConnor wrote Professor Bao Miaoqin:

We understand that Intelsat has declined to participate in the IOC [i.e., IRC]. Yet, to date, there has been no announcement by CGWIC [China Great Wall Industry Corporation] on this issue. A formal announcement should be made about this matter and a satisfactory replacement for Intelsat must be found as a matter of urgency.49

As of April 4, 1996, China Great Wall Industry Corporation said it was trying its best to establish an Independent Review Committee according to the minimum conditions set by the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co. and J & H Marsh & McLennan, and had developed a working schedule for such a group.50

According to Timothy Rush, former Intelsat program manager, the PRC set up the Independent Review Committee in order to remain in the launch services business. The parties with the most incentive to urge the creation of the Independent Review Committee were customers who needed launch services, and China Great Wall Industry Corporation. China Great Wall Industry Corporation feared that additional customers would cancel contracts unless it provided more reporting on the Long March 3B-Intelsat 708 failure.51

Donald Bridwell, manager of Intelsatís Major Programs Office, advised the Select Committee that "the next insurer would want to know about the failure." The next insurance broker for a PRC launch was J & H Marsh & McLennan, acting for the Hughes-built Apstar-1A.52

J & H Marsh & McLennanís Hewins, then Chairman of the firmís Space and Telecom Group, says he does not recall how the Independent Review Committee was formed. He does remember that he contacted the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co., the satellite customer for the next launch of a Long March rocket, and the underwriters for that next launch of a Long March rocket, following the Long March 3B-Intelsat 708 failure. Hewins does not recall any specific information being shared with the insurance industry after the failure.53

J & H Marsh & McLennanís Quinn, then a Vice President in the Space and Telecom Group, states that there may have been discussions regarding improving the reliability of China Great Wall Industry Corporationís rockets in a general sense.

Quinn says he was not aware that anyone at J & H Marsh & McLennan communicated to Loral or the Independent Review Committee regarding the PRC improving its launch capabilities. The first time that Quinn recalls hearing of the Independent Review Committee was in his office with Paul OíConnor, another J & H Marsh & McLennan Vice President on the Space and Telecom Group; he recalls that "Paul [OíConnor] was involved in it."

Quinn says he does not know, however, who requested the Independent Review Committee. He speculated that it may have been Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co., Hughes, the PRC, or the insurers.54

The April 15-16, 1996 Insurance Meeting in Beijing

J & H Marsh & McLennanís Quinn recalls that an insurance meeting was held in Beijing on April 15 and 16, 1996 for the Apstar-1A satellite launch insurers.55

The China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology and China Great Wall Industry Corporation launch service representatives presented possible causes of the failure of the Long March 3B carrying the Intelsat 708. The PRC representatives reported what they had done to date, and that work was ongoing. They summarized telemetry and tracking data.56 According to Quinn, the meeting constituted the first time that the underwriters received any information about the Long March 3B-Intelsat 708 failure.57

Quinn says that representatives from Loral, Hughes, the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co., China Great Wall Industry Corporation,

J & H Marsh & McLennan, and other insurance companies attended the meeting.

Quinn says that he does not recall Nick Yen, Secretary of the Independent Review Committee and a Loral employee, being present at the meeting. Loralís Dr. Wah Lim, Chairman of the Independent Review Committee, Dr. John Smay, Independent Review Committee member and employee of Hughesí Chief Technologist and another unidentified Hughes representative were present, but Quinn does not recall whether any of them made any presentations.58

Quinn says that PRC representatives interacted with underwriters at the meeting through presentations in a controlled environment. He recalls that a Defense Department monitor was present. Quinn says that Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co. and China Great Wall Industry Corporation made presentations to approximately 10 to 15 insurance company representatives, describing what happened in the Long March 3B-Intelsat 708 failure, and why it would not happen in the Apstar-1A satellite launch.

J & H Marsh & McLennanís Quinn says he does not recall whether the Independent Review Committee gave a presentation.59 Quinn says that his role at the meeting was to "make sure things ran smoothly." In his view, members of the Independent Review Committee attended the meeting to "try to provide some comfort" to the insurers, but he does not know whether PRC representatives provided information or produced a report.60

Quinn recalls that his colleague, Paul OíConnor, played a liaison role for the meeting because he was the J & H Marsh & McLennan account manager for the Apstar-1A insurance program.61 OíConnor assisted in inviting the attendees, and the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co. may have provided some assistance.

Intelsatís Edwards says he and two or three technical managers from Intelsat attended the meeting. Although Edwards does not recall specifically who went, all of the Intelsat attendees were from the Intelsat Launch Vehicle Programs Office. Edwards says that he does not recall whether Lim or Yen were present at any technical meetings or briefings he attended.

Two to three representatives from the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology were present. Six to eight representatives from China Launch and Tracking Control, the PRC organization which tracks the status of satellites, also were present, along with two to three representatives from the Xichang launch site. Intelsatís Edwards says he did not see any sub-contractors from China Great Wall Industry Corporation at the meeting, but that there might have been a representative from Loral present.62

Quinn says that copies of the PRCís presentation were distributed to the underwriters, Independent Review Committee members, and J & H Marsh & McLennan staff.63 Quinn does not know the terms on which the presentation was distributed.64 Edwards says he does not recall a written report from the PRC at the meeting in Beijing.65

At issue at the conclusion of the meeting was Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co.ís desire to authorize Hughes to ship a satellite to the PRC for launch, provided insurance coverage was maintained. The underwriters agreed that Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co. could so authorize Hughes, but that this action did not obligate them to offer insurance.66

Thus, the insurance issue was still outstanding after the April 15 and 16, 1996, meeting. The underwriters agreed to discuss the insurance aspects in greater detail and request more information from China Great Wall Industry Corporation. Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Co. representatives were hopeful that the insurance issue would be resolved prior to the launch.67

On April 17, 1996, OíConnor wrote to Diane Dwyer, a colleague at J & H Marsh & McLennan:

The briefing went very well and we have a great result, the Apstar-1A satellite has been approved for shipment to the launch site, ready for launch. Final launch approval will be provided when a number of action items are completed, mostly, conditions precedent for the launch approval. All are skeptical of [China Great Wall Industry Corporation]ís ability to deliver, especially on time, but thereís always a first time . . .

Underwriters are no longer cynics, but have a cautious optimism for the ability of the Chinese to improve their game.

International review committee has been established, chaired by an SS/L guy, Wah Lim.68

On April 23, 1996, an information release by China Great Wall Industry Corporation noted:

Representatives from Hughes and Apstar-1A reinsurance program were jointly invited by China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) and APT Satellite Co., Ltd. (APT) to participate in the Apstar-1A Pre-Flight Technical Briefing held in Beijing from April 15 to 16, 1996 . . .

Prior to the meeting, an Independent Review Committee (IRC) constituted by specialists from international space industry had already been set up by CGWIC. Independent review of the [Long March 3B] launch failure investigation will be performed by the IRC. IRC members were invited and some were able to [be] present [at] the 2-day meeting.69

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

Search CNN/AllPolitics
          Enter keyword(s)       go    help

© 1999 Cable News Network, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.
Who we are.