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

PRC Missile and Space Forces

page 8

APMT and the Asian Financial Crisis

The APMT program is one of the few commercial communications satellite programs that has remained strong despite the Asian financial crisis. Projections of an oversupply problem for Asia, and an accompanying plunge in transponder lease rates, appeared before the 1998 recession began. Asian currencies fell, as did demand for new satellite capacity. This oversupply was compounded when India did not pass legislation as expected to open their nation to the direct-to-home satellite market. That failure left some Asian satellites with empty beams aimed at India. Additional questions arose during this time about whether there are sufficient customers for these satellites to earn revenue. The Asian market is flooded with transponder capacity, creating a buyers' market.109

At least ten Asia-Pacific region communications satellite programs have been deferred due to the economic crisis.110 These include the Measat 3, Agila 3, AsiaSat 4, Thaicom 4, LSTAR 1, LSTAR 2, and the M2A communications satellites.111

Yet another concern with Hughes' proposed APMT sale is that it could help the PRC learn about the deployment of large antenna structures. This could assist the PRC in the development of future reconnaissance satellites. Mechanisms used to deploy large antenna systems have been protected from PRC scrutiny in the past. Visual access to the satellite, as well as the risk of unauthorized discussion with engineers such as has occurred in the past, could give the PRC access to this sensitive technology for the first time.

The Role of PLA General Shen Rongjun and His Son in APMT

The complex relationship between the Shen family and the Asia-Pacific Mobile Telecommunications (APMT) satellite has raised concerns about the possible use of the satellite for military intelligence purposes, and the possibility that technology discussed in the technical interchange meetings would be transferred to the People's Liberation Army (PLA).112

In May 1994, PLA Lieutenant General Shen Rongjun, the Deputy Director of the People's Republic of China Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND), traveled to the United States and attended several business meetings with Hughes. Gen. Shen's responsibilities at COSTIND included the acquisition of satellite systems for the PRC. During this visit to the United States, General Shen's son, Shen Jun, who was living in Canada at the time, attended a business lunch with his father where he was introduced to Frank Taormina of Hughes. Taormina would later assist Shen Jun in obtaining a job at Hughes.113

Shen Jun is the older of two sons born to Gen. Shen. He spent 10 of his early years living at the Taiyun Satellite Launch Center in Shanxi province. Shen Jun received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in computer science from the Changsha Institute of Technology.114 The Changsha Institute of Technology is also known as the National Defense University of Science and Technology and is run by the PLA. For two years, Shen Jun received training and worked in the field of missiles and satellites under PLA supervision.

Shen Jun began working in North America in 1989 as a research assistant at the University of Waterloo, where he would later receive his Ph.D. in computer science in 1993.115

During his lunch meeting with Taormina in 1994, Shen Jun remarked that he was applying for a job with Hughes Canada. Taormina suggested to Shen Jun that he submit his resume to Taormina at Hughes in Los Angeles, where he could probably get a better job. While Shen Jun says he was not certain whether Taormina had a relationship with his father, he assumes that this was so, since Taormina was a Hughes vice president in charge of marketing and commercial business.116

Shen Jun was hired at Hughes in August 1994 after interviewing with Steve Hagers, who would become his boss.117 At the time, a division of Space Systems/Loral was also considering hiring Shen for a position that would have allowed him access to classified information.

Originally, Shen Jun was hired at Hughes as a scientist in the information technology division. His primary duty was to investigate new software systems that were available in the commercial market for potential use by Hughes.118 However, by June 1995, Shen Jun was transferred into Hughes' business development unit, where Hughes used him to conduct market research, general marketing of satellites in Asia, and, specifically, marketing of the APMT program.119

Another of Shen Jun's roles was to act as an interpreter for Hughes. While Hughes acquired a license from the U.S. State Department for Shen Jun to work as an interpreter in late 1996, Shen says he did not attend any of the preliminary design review meetings for APMT.120 Shen Jun states that he did translate for Hughes during at least one or two meetings in the proposal stage. During this period, Shen Jun had a foreign national badge and did not have access to certain Hughes facilities.121

Shen Jun also claims that he did not talk with his father, Gen. Shen Rongjun, on a regular basis and had only discussed the APMT satellite with him on a couple of occasions, and even then only at a very general level. Shen Jun claims he talks infrequently with his father, and that he usually talks with his mother when he talks with his family because his father is busy. Furthermore, Shen Jun claims not to know his father's current occupation since the reorganization of COSTIND. Shen Jun, acknowledges, however, that he has had "very high level" discussions with his father on APMT such as "how is the thing ... nothing deep, because it's a sensitive issue."122

Gen. Shen Rongjun's interactions with the APMT program are more obviously extensive. General Shen has been an advocate at COSTIND for purchasing Western satellites for the PLA, especially since the PRC's domestic satellites began failing in the early 1990s. Based on his position and responsibilities, Gen. Shen was directly involved in the decision to choose Hughes to work on the APMT program.

Similarities Between the PRC's Ballistic Missile and Rocket Technology


The technologies used in rockets and ballistic missiles are essentially the same, except in the areas of payload and flight profile.123 The common elements of rockets and ballistic missiles include:

  • Propulsion
  • Structure
  • Staging
  • Guidance and control
  • Ground support and launch equipment
  • Systems integration124

These commonalities have led to considerable interaction between rocket and ballistic missile programs. Nations that possess space launch capabilities are considered to have all the essential elements to develop a ballistic missile, and vice versa.

Historically, most rockets have been derived from ballistic missiles. In the United States, for example, the current Titan, Atlas, and Delta rockets were derived from ballistic missiles developed in the 1950s and 1960s. Russia's Start rocket is essentially an SS-25 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that has been modified with an additional upper stage and a payload fairing in place of its reentry vehicle.125 Some rockets were even launched from silos, such as the Soviet-era SL-7 and SL-8. These Soviet rockets made use of the SS-4 and SS-5 intermediate-range ballistic missiles, respectively, as first stages.126

Since their origin, the PRC missile and space programs have been tied together. Like the space programs in the United States and the Soviet Union, the PRC space program got its early start by modifying ballistic missiles into rockets. These early attempts set a pattern of cooperation that continues today. The interaction can be seen in the overall design of the ballistic missiles and the rockets and in certain subsystems, such as propulsion.

In some areas, however, there are divergences. These divergences will increase in the future as the PRC's rockets and ballistic missiles employ different technologies, such as solid-propellant motors for ICBMs and cryogenic liquid-propellant engines for rockets.

The PRC's first rocket, known as the Long March 1, was a derivative of its limited range CSS-3 ICBM. The PRC launched two satellites aboard the Long March 1: one in 1970, and the second in 1971.

The PRC's CSS-4 ICBM has been the model for all PRC rockets since 1973. The first, the Long March 2A, has evolved into a family of rockets, including the Long March 2C, 2E, and 3; the Long March 3A family; and the Long March 4. The Long March 2C rocket is the most closely related to the CSS-4 ICBM. Indeed, it was derived directly from it. The two vehicles share the same first stage engines, structure, and dimensions.127

The PRC has also modified the CSS-3 into a small satellite launch vehicle known as the Long March 1D. The modifications include improvements to the YF-2 engines, a new second stage engine utilizing the YF-40 engines from the Long March 4, and a solid-propellant third stage similar to the apogee kick motor used on the Long March 3. The PRC has yet to use this new rocket for commercial space launches. The Long March 1D has, however, been used for military purposes.

Propulsion Systems

The propulsion system requirements for rockets and ballistic missiles are the same. Liquid-propellant engines or solid-propellant motors can be used on either. Both first and second stage engines are interchangeable between ballistic missiles and rockets. The flight environments that ballistic missiles and rockets pass through are the same, thus allowing their engines to be designed similarly. Traditionally, however, rockets use either additional stages or kick motors to place their payloads into orbit. Strap-on boosters can also be used for both rockets and ballistic missiles.

For its next generation ballistic missiles, the PRC is moving towards solid propellants. This will offer faster reaction times compared to liquid-propellant missiles. Moreover, solid-propellant missiles tend to be lighter weight. Solid propellants are less commonly used for rocket applications, since they provide less boosting power to place large payloads into orbit. Furthermore, the challenge of restarting solid-propellant motors once stopped makes them unattractive for upper stage use. The light weight of solid propellants, however, does make them useful for placing satellites into geosynchronous orbits, because they may be employed as kick motors and also as strap-on boosters on rockets.

The PRC's space program is reported to be moving away from storable liquid-propellant engines to cryogenic liquid-propellant engines. The PRC is reported to be working on a rocket that would use cryogenic liquid-propellant engines for its first and second stages. These engines provide greater boosting power over storable liquid propellants and solid propellants.128


The airframe structure that forms the aerodynamic shell within which all elements of the rocket and ballistic missile are integrated is the same for both rockets and ballistic missiles.129

Ballistic missile and rocket structures must use materials that are lightweight and strong.130 Lightweight materials are preferred because the smaller the structural fraction of the weight of the missile or rocket, the more weight can be dedicated to payload or range.131

The structure must also be strong enough to withstand the aerodynamic loads that affect the missile or rocket during boost and ground handling operations.132 Because these loads are similar during the boost phase of flight, the structural requirements for ballistic missiles and rockets are the same, placing the same premium on materials, design, and fabrication.133

'The Fairing is part of the Launch Vehicle'

A rocket's nosecone, which protects the satellite inside, is known as a fairing. The same nosecone, if used on a ballistic missile to protect the nuclear warhead payload, is called a shroud.

Whether the launch vehicle is a rocket or a ballistic missile, the function of the nosecone is specialized to protect the payload satellite or nuclear warhead from external aerodynamic loads, vibration, noise, temperature extremes, and other environments that may be encountered as the vehicle is launched and accelerates through the atmosphere.

In the case of rockets, the fairing protects the satellite. In the case of ballistic missiles, the shroud would most likely be used to protect multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVs). (See the Technical Afterword to the chapter entitled Satellite Launches in the PRC: Hughes for a description of the similarities between the design and construction of the fairing for a rocket and a shroud for a ballistic missile.)

In 1995, Hughes argued to the Commerce Department that the fairing was part of the satellite and, therefore, Hughes' advice to the PRC regarding the fairing did not require a State Department license. A Commerce Department official, without asking any other U.S. Government agency, agreed. The Select Committee requested that the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, CIA, and NASA provide responses to the question: "Is the fairing part of the launch vehicle, or part of the satellite?" Their answers are summarized below.

Defense: "The fairing is part of the launch vehicle. It is designed and manufactured by the launch provider to encapsulate payloads (including, but not limited to, satellites). The fairing must be designed as an integral part of the launch vehicle system as its structure, in many respects, determines the success of the launch." 134

State: "The Department considers the fairing to be an integral part of the space launch vehicle. The forward end of a space launch vehicle typically has a payload fairing, which protects both the satellite and the space launch vehicle from aerodynamic loading and heating during the launch vehicle's ascent through the densest part of the atmosphere." 135

Commerce: "Fairings are regarded as part of the launch vehicle. Under U.S. implementation of multilateral controls, fairings are under the export jurisdiction of the Department of State." 136

CIA: "The CIA considers the payload fairing to be part of the space launch vehicle because the fairing is needed to fly the vehicle and satellite through the atmosphere. Furthermore, the fairings are typically designed and built by the launch vehicle provider, not the satellite manufacturer." 137

NASA: "The fairing is routinely acquired as a component of the launch vehicle service." 138

Ballistic Missile and Rocket Stages

The staging mechanisms on ballistic missiles and rockets are the same. In both cases, the purpose of using stages is to carry aloft the smallest amount of weight necessary to accelerate the payload to its target.

By discarding parts of the rocket or missiles that are no longer necessary, including unused propellant, stage separation makes space flight more efficient. For ballistic missiles with low accuracy (for example, "city buster" nuclear weapons as opposed to those designed to hit ICBM silos), the mechanisms for payload separation can be similar to those used on rockets.

Guidance Systems

The guidance and control subsystem of a rocket and of a ballistic missile monitors the flight path and adjusts for the effects of high altitude winds or gravitational attractions. The purpose, in both cases, is to deliver a payload to preselected points, either in orbit or on the earth, at preselected velocities.

The accuracy capabilities of a ballistic missile's guidance system may exceed those required for placing satellites into orbit, but the guidance system for a ballistic missile can be used on a rocket. A rocket guidance system, on the other hand, is not usually designed for the same degree of accuracy as is required for ballistic missiles, and therefore may not be suitable for use in some ballistic missile missions where a high degree of accuracy is required. In most cases, however, a rocket guidance system would be sufficiently accurate for delivering nuclear weapons to large targets such as cities.139

Many of the PRC's ballistic missiles and rockets share the same guidance systems.

The Select Committee has learned from Western scientists participating in the failure review following the 1996 Long March 3B crash that the guidance system used on the Long March 2C, Long March 2E and Long March 3 rockets is also used on the CSS-4 intercontinental ballistic missile.140

The strap-down guidance system that is used on the PLA's M-series of ballistic missiles, such as the CSS-6 (also known as the M-9) and CSS-X-7 (also known as the M-11), is also used on the PRC "Smart Dispenser."141 The PRC has used the Smart Dispenser to dispense two Iridium communications satellites on six different occasions.

The PRC had proposed to Loral to use this same guidance system on the PRC's "Top Stage" dispenser to dispense twelve Globalstar communications satellites from atop a Long March 2E rocket.142 The PRC marketed the Top Stage to Loral as having a mature guidance system, since its inertial measurement unit had been tested on more than 50 flights of the M-series missiles.143 After the crash of the Long March 3B carrying Loral's Intelsat 708 payload, however, Loral withdrew from its Globalstar contract with the PRC, and the 12-satellite dispenser was never used.

The Long March 3A, 3B, and 3C rockets use a different inertial measurement unit than do the Long March 2 family of rockets, the Long March 3, and the CSS-4 ICBM. The new guidance system for the Long March 3A, 3B, and 3C was developed in 1985, and is cheaper and lighter than the Long March 2 and Long March 3 guidance system.

The Long March 2 and 3 inertial measurement unit, for example, is so heavy that a crane is required to place it into position in the rocket. The Long March 3A, 3B, and 3C inertial measurement system is sufficiently smaller that it can be manually installed in the rocket.

Additionally, the Long March 2 guidance system and the guidance system for the Long March 3A, 3B, and 3C share almost none of the same components. The Long March 2 guidance system uses a double solder for connectors, whereas the Long March 3B uses a single solder. The Long March 2 guidance system is also a three-axis stabilized platform, whereas the Long March 3B is a four-axis stabilized platform.144

A relatively small and lightweight inertial measurement unit would be required for the PRC's next generation of ICBMs. While the Long March 3B inertial measurement unit is capable of being used for that purpose, it is considered an unlikely choice. Nonetheless, the experience that the PRC has gained with the Long March 3B in designing a small and lightweight inertial measurement unit that works will almost certainly benefit its designs of ICBM guidance systems in the future.

Ground Support

Ground support and launch procedures can be the same for rockets and ballistic missiles. The crews that launch ballistic missiles and rockets can be the same (and, indeed, PLA personnel are involved in both rocket and ICBM launches in the PRC).

The ground support equipment, such as the launch tower, the missile stand, the propellant handling equipment, and the transportation trains, can all be the same for rockets and ballistic missiles.

Payload preparation and handling is an area where procedures do differ, since satellites often require a complex checkout sequence before launch which ballistic missile warheads do not.145

The various institutes and academies in the PRC involved in the design and production of ballistic missiles also share design and production responsibilities for rockets. The China Academy of Launch Technology (CALT) is responsible for research and development of ballistic missiles and rockets. The Beijing Institute of Control Devices is responsible for both ballistic missile and rocket design. Moreover, all of these academies and institutes are managed within the same organizational hierarchy. These common responsibilities will allow the PRC to gain experience for both their ballistic missile and rocket programs through the launching of Western communications satellites.

The PRC's launch sites are also used for both military and commercial purposes. The Taiyun Satellite Launch Center was originally designed for launches of the CSS-4 ICBM. Today it launches the Long March 2C/SD rocket carrying Iridium satellites and the Long March 4 into polar orbits.146

Systems Integration

The system for integrating the propulsion, guidance and control, payload, and structure is the same for rockets and ballistic missiles.147 Analytical and diagnostic tools, such as structural analysis software, are the same for both and are widely available.148


The payload is the area of most significant potential difference between rockets and ballistic missiles.

Satellites are usually complex, fragile systems that are designed to remain in orbit for fixed periods of time. Satellite payloads usually are not required to withstand the aerodynamic stresses of reentry. Single warheads, on the other hand including nuclear, chemical, and biological warheads, as well as conventional bombs are designed to survive the intense stresses of atmospheric reentry.

Rockets normally use a fairing to protect the satellite payload from the aerodynamics stresses of launch (although a satellite can be designed, in some instances, to withstand the aerodynamic stresses of launch and therefore would not require a fairing). But in many cases, such as in the deployment of multiple warheads, or submarine launched missiles, ballistic missiles can include a shroud that is similar to a fairing. Both fairings and shrouds are aerodynamic shells that are placed over the payload satellite or warhead to reduce drag and aerodynamic stresses during launch.

To place the desired payloads into orbit, rockets generally operate at higher velocities than ballistic missiles. These higher velocities are often attained by high performance third stages, or by kick motors. An ICBM payload, on the other hand, is not intended to achieve orbit around the earth. Rather, the nuclear warhead reentry vehicle is considered to be a rocket whose orbit intersects the earth at the target.


Because of the many commonalities between rockets and ballistic missiles, the PRC can apply the same system refinements and modifications to both its rockets and ICBMs. It is likely that the failure rates of CSS-4 ICBM test flights, and the remedies the PRC adopts to address technical problems with the CSS-4 ICBM, may be the same as or similar to those of the Long March series of rockets.

Back  |  Footnotes  |  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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