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Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral

page 4

State Department Views on Public Domain Information
In general, a U.S. citizen may transfer public domain information to a foreign national. However, such a transfer is not allowed if it occurs in the performance of a defense service, which is defined in Part 120 of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

In a defense service, a person or a company does a service for, or on behalf of, a foreign party, directly related to a commodity on the munitions list.

The expertise and experience of the person making the disclosure, and the circumstances of the disclosure, are important in determining whether a defense service has been performed through such a disclosure. As an example, simply giving a foreign national an article from the Encyclopedia Britannica is not an export requiring a license. If, however, the article is provided to a foreign national by an experienced engineer in the context of specific technical discussions, a defense service that requires a license may have been performed.

Thus, it is possible to perform a defense service while using only public domain information. A person with technical expertise or experience may guide or shape a discussion, leading it in some way by using the public domain information that is being provided. In this way, the person may convey some knowledge, some ability, or some expertise, and thus may be performing a defense service.

The Defense Department Concludes the Independent Review Committee's Work Is Likely to Lead to the Improved Reliability of PRC's Ballistic Missiles The Defense Technology Security Administration stated in its 1997 assessment of the Independent Review Committee activities that "[t]he significant benefit derived by China from these activities are likely to lead to improvements in the overall reliability of their launch vehicles [rockets] and ballistic missiles and in particular their guidance systems." 222

The Defense Department 1996 assessment stated:

The [Independent Review Committee] second meeting minutes provides two alternate causes for the guidance system failure that were previously ruled out or not cited by [the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology].

Furthermore, [the Independent Review Committee] recommends specific testing to confirm/deny these alternative causes that otherwise would likely not have been done by China.

If true failure turns out to be one of these alternatives, then the [Independent Review Committee] will have solved the guidance problem for [the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] and possibly prevented a future failure of a [rocket] or developmental missile.

The Defense Department 1996 assessment further stated:

The [Independent Review Committee] Preliminary Report recommends specific guidance platform problems that should be studied and fixed. This could improve the success of their guidance platforms for [rockets] and missiles.

The Long March 3B Guidance System and Ballistic Missiles

The Long March 3B guidance system is judged by the Select Committee to be among the systems capable of being adapted for use in the PRC's planned road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles. According to the Select Committee√s technical expert, the lightweight and compact design of the Long March 3B guidance system makes it among the systems capable of being used on a small, solid-propellant missile like the PRC's DF-31 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The accuracy of the Long March 3B guidance system is sufficient to target U.S. cities, although there is no basis for assuming greater guidance accuracy than would be achieved with larger, heavier inertial measurement units such as those used on the PRC's currently deployed CSS-4 intercontinental ballistic missile. If the Long March 3B inertial measurement unit were utilized on an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), its advantage would be its lower cost, smaller size, lighter weight, and proven track record. Its disadvantage would be that the Long March 3B inertial measurement unit would require modification to be rugged enough for use on the road-mobile DF-31. If another, better system is available, however, it is more likely to be chosen for that mission.

The interagency review team, in its July 1998 assessment, stated that the advice given to the PRC by the Independent Review Committee could reinforce or add vigor to the PRC's design and test practices. In December 1998, the U.S. Government internally reported that the Independent Review Committee may have improved the reliability of the Long March 3B guidance system and, by extension, other rockets that use this guidance system. And if the PRC acquired or developed a manufacturing or testing process for their rocket program that could benefit their missile programs, they could incorporate it into those programs.

The Cross-Fertilization of the PRC's Rocket and Missile Design Programs

Chang Yang attended both the Palo Alto and Beijing Independent Review Committee meetings. Chang, an engineer, is the Vice-Director of the Beijing Institute of Control Devices. Given the cross-fertilization between the PRC's rocket guidance system designers and intercontinental ballistic missile guidance system designers, Chang's participation in the Independent Review Committee likely ensured that any significant information imparted by the Independent Review Committee members was used to improve the PRC's ballistic missile systems. Chang certainly could have passed on significant information to the engineers working on ballistic missile guidance systems.

The interagency review team found that the technical issue of greatest concern was exposing the PRC to Western diagnostic processes, as suggested by Loral and Hughes.223 This exposure could improve the PRC's pre- and post-flight failure analysis for their ballistic missile programs. This, in turn, could increase the PRC's future ballistic missile reliability.224

The interagency review team also reported that the Independent Review Committee provided the PRC with alternative possible causes of the failure that the PRC had apparently not previously considered, at least to that point in their investigation.225

Finally, the interagency review team reported that advice given to the PRC by the Independent Review Committee could help to reinforce or add vigor to the PRC's adherence to good design and test practices.226 This information could be used by the PRC to assess the failure of any future ballistic missiles or rockets.227

The Defense Technology Security Administration determined that:

The IRC's activities encompassed a wide range of investigatory, engineering, and corrective analyses, including the provision of "Action Items" identifying additional research and testing approaches and specific recommendations for improvement in [rocket] design, manufacturing, testing and quality assurance processes.228

Because of the level of interaction between the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology's rocket and intercontinental ballistic missile programs and the affiliations of the PRC members involved in the Independent Review Committee, the experience gained in diagnostic and failure investigation techniques during their participation in the Independent Review Committee could assist the PRC in its future rocket and ballistic missile development and testing programs.

The Independent Review Committee Aided the PRC In Identifying the Cause of the Long March 3B Failure China Great Wall Industry Corporation's final investigation report indicated that the true failure mode was discovered by the end of May 1996 after repeated tests and analysis. China Great Wall Industry Corporation reported that the root cause of the failure was most probably the lack of output in the three gold-aluminum engagement joints inside the power amplifier module (HMS501J) for the servo-loop of the follow-up frame. The PRC final investigation report said, "the joint deterioration caused the loop failed to work [sic]." 229

The Defense Technology Security Administration assessment of the Independent Review Committee activities stated: "[The Department of Defense] considers it highly probable that, as a result of the [Independent Review Committee's] activities, the PRC has determined the root failure cause and is making progress toward correcting underlying design, manufacturing, test and quality assurance processes for the [Long March 3B's] guidance unit." 230

The interagency review team assessed in July 1998 that the true failure mode may have been discovered more quickly by the PRC as a result of the Independent Review Committee's report.231

According to the Department of Defense, the Independent Review Committee very likely led the PRC to discover the true failure of the Long March 3B guidance system:

Stating it simply, it can be shown that before [the] IRC [Independent Review Committee], the Chinese team had narrowed the most-probable failure scenario to a particular area of the inertial platform (inner frame gimbal).

It can also be shown that in the IRC draft report delivered to China, that the IRC pointed out that the failure could also be in two other places (namely the follow-up frame gimbal or in an open-loop feedback path) and stated that China should explain some as-yet unexplained data output (concerning the follow-up frame); [the] IRC went on to recommend that China perform tests that would prove/disprove all three scenarios.

It can be shown that after the IRC report (and suspension of IRC activities), the Chinese team performed specific tests for these scenarios, and that shortly after the IRC report, these tests resulted in the Chinese team ruling out their original failure scenario (the inner frame gimbal) and resulted in isolating the follow-up frame gimbal as the source of the failure.232

The PRC Implemented All of the Independent Review Committee's Recommendations At the Pre-Shipment Review on April 14, 1997 for the upcoming PRC launch of Loral's Mabuhay satellite, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology announced that it was taking 44 corrective actions to address the cause of the Long March 3B failure.

These corrective measures included discarding all remaining HMS501J power amplifier modules from the batch used on the Long March 3B flight that failed.233

All of the Independent Review Committee's recommendations from its Preliminary Report are addressed by these 44 corrective actions. Selected recommendations and PRC corrective actions are detailed on the overleaf:234

Loral Recommendations Chart

PRC Corrective Actions Address Independent Review Committee Recommendations

China Academy of Launch Technology Corrective Action
Independent Review Committee Recommendation Addressed*
7) "Platform's acceptance test will be stricter, and the acoustic test will be involved in the acceptance tests...."
Short Term #4: Improve environmental testing.
9) "All of the platform's movable connections will adopt double-jointed and double-wired connection, such as the torque motor's brushes. As for fixed connections, double-jointed and double-wired connections will be adopted as many as possible."
Short Term #2: Study detailed design of torque motor and wiring to reduce impact of harness motion or deflection of solder joints.
Long Term #2: Review designs and avoid single point failures - increase redundancy.
10) "The conductive slip ring is one of the important components inside the platform ... CALT had adopted measures to increase the conductive slip ring's reliability, and upgraded reliability technology and screening measures to guarantee its normal working status."
Short Term #2: Study detailed design of torque motor and wiring to reduce impact of harness motion or deflection of solder joints.
Long Term #2: Review designs and avoid single point failures - increase redundancy.
11) "CALT had increased grounding points of platform's power supply circuits. All of the platform's four stabilization circuits will be triple-redundantly powered."
Long Term #2: Review designs and avoid single point failures - increase redundancy.
15) "To improve soldering technology, tooling and working environment to operate and detect easier. For example, adding special tooling, strengthening inspection measures to assure the welding quality."
Short Term #2: Study detailed design of torque motor and wiring to reduce impact of harness motion or deflection of solder joints.
Short Term #3: Improve quality control in manufacturing.
Long Term #1: Strengthen quality control practices and training.
16) "To strengthen soldering quality check, including pre-soldering raw material detect, post-soldering non-destructive tension test and sampling destructive test for key parts."
Short Term #3: Improve quality control in manufacturing.
Long Term #1: Strengthen quality control practices and training.
33) "To strengthen flight resume criterion after failure."
Short Term #4: Improve environmental testing.
34) "To supervise the manufacturing of key/critical elements so as to assure its quality."
Short Term #3: Improve quality control in manufacturing.
Long Term #1: Strengthen quality control practices and training.
36) "To strengthen design review."
Short Term #3: Improve quality control in manufacturing.
Long Term #1: Strengthen quality control practices and training.
37) "To strengthen technical exchange among all Long March families."
Long Term #1: Strengthen quality control practices and training.
38) "To strengthen education of quality control to all of the employees and to link their incomes with quality."
Short Term #3: Improve quality control in manufacturing.
Long Term #1: Strengthen quality control practices and training.
40) "To improve safety control measurement in launch site."
Short Term #5: Improve range safety.
42) "To strengthen the maintenance and check to ground cryogenic fueling equipment."
Short Term #5: Improve range safety.
43) "To strengthen the withdrawal and evacuation of the people."
Short Term #5: Improve range safety.
44) "To strengthen measures for emergency."
Short Term #5: Improve range safety.
  • The Independent Review Committee recommendations are listed in their entirety under the heading "Substance of the Preliminary Report" in the "Overview of Events" earlier in this chapter.

Loral does not believe that the PRC's actions resulted from the Independent Review Committee. Loral stated in an update to its State Department disclosure provided at the request of the Select Committee that "none of the Chinese's [sic] announced improvements to its Long March 3B rockets was the result of Loral's participation in the Independent Review Committee." 235

However, the corrective actions presented by the PRC in April 1997 are much more comprehensive than the list of corrective actions presented a year earlier at the Apstar 1A pre-flight briefing in April 1996.236

At the Apstar 1A briefing, which preceded the Independent Review Committee activities, the PRC listed:

Six "comprehensive enhancements for [the] inner frame axle circuit" Several general reliability design review actions to be completed in 1997 Ten "production assurance" corrective actions237

The 1996 briefing expressly matched only two corrective actions from the 1997 briefing: to increase reliability of the inertial measurement unit's slip rings (1997 corrective action #10 of 44) and to perform a review of the Long March 3B design toward improving the overall reliability (1997 corrective action #21 of 44).238

The Independent Review Committee Helped the PRC Improve the Reliability of Its Long March Rockets The Defense Technology Security Administration stated in its assessment of the Independent Review Committee activities that "[t]he significant benefits derived by China from these activities are likely to lead to improvements in the overall reliability of their launch vehicles [rockets] . . . and in particular their guidance systems." 239 Likewise, the interagency review team reported in their assessment that the advice given by the Independent Review Committee could improve PRC space rocket reliability.240

By identifying the true Long March 3B failure mode, and additional modifications for the Long March 3B inertial measurement unit, it is likely that the Independent Review Committee helped the PRC avoid future failures of the Long March 3B.

Afterword

U.S. COMPANIES'
MOTIVATIONS
TO LAUNCH SATELLITES
IN THE PRC

Afterword
U.S. COMPANIES'
MOTIVATIONS
TO LAUNCH SATELLITES
IN THE PRC

Competitive International Launch Industry

The international space launch services industry is very competitive. Europe, China, Russia, Ukraine, and Japan are active competitors in this market. The main competitor to U.S. companies for commercial launch services is Europe's Arianespace. The Congressional Research Service reports that "Europe has a 50-60% share of the commercial launch services market, while the United States has 30-40%, and China and Russia share the rest." Ukraine and Japan have not yet launched satellites on a commercial basis, although both have contracts to do so.241

Several factors motivate U.S. companies to launch satellites in the PRC. International consortia with PRC investors can apply pressure for, or force the use of, PRC launch services. The backlog of available rockets elsewhere is a factor, and the comparatively low price is also an inducement.242

Launch Backlog

Rocket Wait (yrs.) # of Satellites Launch Rate
in Backlog per year

Delta II 3.2 42 13
Zenit 3.0 3 1
Atlas 2.9 26 9
Long March 2.7 16 6
Ariane 2.4 41 17
Proton 2.3 21 9

Source: Aerospace Industries Association datasheet titled "China/Satellite Launch Fact Sheet" dated 6/3/98.

PRC Commercial Launch Services

The PRC offers several versions of its Long March rockets for commercial launch services through China Great Wall Industry Corporation. According to the Congressional Research Service, "China reportedly has about 10% of the worldwide market for commercial space launches." 243

The PRC is the locus of an expanding marketplace for satellite-based telecommunications services, including mobile telephone services, direct broadcast television and digital data services. This has spawned numerous enterprises that hope to capitalize on this market and that include PRC investment.

Frequently, these wholly or partly PRC-owned customers for launch services require that their satellites be launched by China Great Wall Industry Corporation. Examples include the Asia Pacific Telecommunications Satellite Company, Mabuhay, and Asiasat. This is the leading reason for U.S. satellite manufacturers to launch their satellites in the PRC.

PRC Launches Are Subsidized

Because of the PRC's non-market economy, the potential for technology transfer, and political concerns, the United States agreed in 1989 to grant export licenses for launches of U.S.-built satellites in China only on several conditions. These conditions included an agreement by the PRC "to price its launch services 'on a par' with Western companies." 244

That six-year agreement was signed in 1989 and expired in 1994. A new seven-year agreement was signed on March 13, 1995.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the "Bilateral Space Launch Services Trade Agreement" with the PRC specifies:

* Geostationary Earth Orbit satellite (GEO)245 launches must be priced on a par with Western prices * If the price is within 15%, it will normally be considered consistent with this obligation * Prices more than 15% below will be examined in detail * Low Earth Orbit satellite (LEO)246 launches must be priced on a par with Western prices 247

The PRC was accused of violating this agreement in a 1990 contract to launch the Arabsat satellite for $25 million. The main competitor for that launch, Arianespace, turned to the French and U.S. governments to prohibit the export of the satellite, which included U.S.-built components, to the PRC. The Arabsat consortium eventually terminated its contract with the PRC, and launched on an Arianespace rocket.248

According to the U.S. Trade Representative, "Arabsat became the first in a series of PRC bids that have been as low as half those offered by Western bidders." 249

The Intelsat VIIA launch services were won by China Great Wall Industry Corporation "with a bid of $56 million, far below the $100-110 million bid by Arianespace." 250

The price China Great Wall Industry Corporation bid for launching the Loral-built Mabuhay satellite was 22-26% below Western prices.251

Additionally, the PRC bids to launch the Apstar-1, Apstar-2, Asiasat-2, and Echostar satellites were all 22-36% below Western bids.252

In May 1997, the U.S. Trade Representative stated that it believed the PRC had violated the pricing provisions of the bilateral agreement in connection with the launch of the Loral-built Mabuhay satellite. The PRC disagreed with this allegation.253

Chronology of KEY Events

1988


October 4 Intelsat awards Intelsat VII contract to Loral for up to nine satellites. This fixed-price contract had a total value of nearly $1 billion. Intelsat had released the RFP for this procurement on October 1, 1987.

1992


April 24 Intelsat awards contract to China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) for launch services - eventually covering the launch of the Intelsat 708 satellite in February 1996. Intelsat had released an RFQ for this procurement on July 16, 1991.
May 11 Loral submits export license application to State Department covering export to the PRC of technical data supporting launch.254


September 18 State Department issues export license No. 533593 for Loral export of technical data supporting a satellite launch (Form DSP-5).255


September 4 Loral submits export license application to State Department for export of the Intelsat 708 satellite to the PRC.256

1993


Mid-1993 Intelsat exercises option for Intelsat 708 satellite from Loral. The 708 satellite is identical to the 706 and 707 units. The 706 was the first in the Intelsat VIIA program.


July 14 State Department issues license No. 544724 for export of Intelsat satellite to the PRC for launch (Form DSP-5).257

1994


1994 Loral and Intelsat employees take site survey trip to Xichang, PRC to inspect facilities for upcoming Intelsat 708 launch. Facilities described as primitive but workable.

1995


April 7-8 Loral briefing package is provided to China Aerospace Corporation (CASC) describing Loral and its capabilities, along with a proposed ten-year joint technology development program between Loral and CASC.258


June 6 Loral requests waiver to transport the Intelsat 708 satellite on a foreign flag aircraft to the PRC.


June 9 Loral signs Memorandum of Agreement with CASC for a ten-year joint technology development program.259


November 2 Loral sends letter to CASC "In Furtherance of the Technology Cooperation Agreement," enclosing performance specification documents for a solar panel, a propellant tank and a pressurant tank, and expressing interest in CASC manufacturing such articles for future Loral satellite programs.260

1996


January 11 Intelsat 708 satellite is shipped to Xichang, PRC, launch site.261
January 16 Loral Export Control Manager William Schweickert sends e-mail to Loral Export Control Officer Duncan Reynard describing security issues/infractions that Col. Nicholas Alexandrow of the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) discussed with Schweickert that morning. The issues were raised by DTSA monitor Steven Prichard at the Xichang launch site and include unescorted PRC nationals, violations of the Site Security Plan and the Technology Transfer Control Plan (TTCP), and lack of cooperation by Loral staff.262

January 24 Loral received and reviewed the Apstar technical data export license, which prohibited any discussion or release under the license of any technical data concerning rocket failure analysis or investigation.


February 15 Intelsat 708 launch failure occurs in Xichang at 3 a.m. local time.263 U.S. personnel taken to crash site at 10 a.m.264 Not allowed to visit the debris field until late in the afternoon.


February 16 Debris recovery operation begins at crash site and includes Loral, Intelsat, Pinkerton, and PLA personnel. 265


February 17 Loral memorandum from Muhammad Wahdy of Loral and acknowledged by DTSA's Prichard documents debris recovery. This report estimated that 30 percent of the command processors, which contain the encryption electronics, were recovered.


February 19 Debris is shipped to Palo Alto, California, by Loral personnel.


February 21 Johnson & Higgins (J & H) Vice President Paul O'Connor sends letter to China Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) suggesting CGWIC implement an aggressive public relations campaign for underwriters.266


February 22 J & H Manager in Paris, Jacques Masson, sends letter to O'Connor reporting discussions with French insurance community regarding the impact of Intelsat 708 failure on future insurance programs. Mentions need to create an "independent inquiry board." 267

Loral received and reviewed the Mabuhay technical data export license, which prohibited any discussion or release under the license of any technical data concerning rocket failure analysis or investigation.


February 26 Insurance underwriters for Apstar-1A program become increasingly disappointed regarding the lack of an independent and international failure review committee.268

Paul O'Connor (J & H) provides CGWIC with a failure review committee schedule modeled after an Ariane failure review plan.269 O'Connor urged CGWIC to allow J & H to obtain failure review conclusions first.270


February 27 CGWIC issues a press release that identifies the cause of the launch failure to be the inertial platform in the Long March 3B control system.271


February 28 O'Connor (J & H) outlines for CGWIC minimum requirements for the Apstar-1A reinsurance program to continue.272


March 4 Intelsat engineer Daniel Lilienstein writes memorandum to Intelsat management documenting unsafe conditions at Xichang launch site during Intelsat 708 launch. 273
March 9 Hughes personnel Pulcher, Lanzit, Arthur, Yiu, and Dome visit Xichang launch site in connection with upcoming Apstar-1A launch.274
March 10 Hughes personnel Pulcher, Lanzit and Arthur meet with representatives of CGWIC, China Launch and Tracking Control General Administration (CLTC), China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), Asia Pacific Telecommunications (APT), and several insurance underwriters in Xichang regarding the upcoming Apstar-1A satellite launch.275
March 14 Apstar-1A insurance meeting is held in Beijing, involving representatives of APT, CGWIC, J & H, Hughes, CLTC, and CALT. J & H official O'Connor presents insurance demands: (1) a final PRC report on the cause of the Long March 3B launch failure, and (2) an independent review of the PRC investigation.276

CGWIC sends letter to Loral President Berry inviting Loral to attend meeting of the PRC Failure Investigation Committee in Beijing on March 20-22, 1996.277


March 18 Loral letter to CGWIC advises that Loral and Intelsat cannot attend the Failure Investigation Committee meeting on such short notice.278
March 20 CGWIC sends letter to Loral inviting Loral and Intelsat to the Failure Investigation Committee meeting in Beijing at the end of March or beginning of April.279

J & H Manager Jacques Masson in Paris identifies potential participants in an independent review committee for the Intelsat 708 failure investigation.280


March 21 Loral letter to CGWIC advises that Loral can only attend the Failure Investigation Committee meeting if invited by Intelsat.281

Insurance underwriter, ACE Ltd., advises J & H that CGWIC's actions regarding the Intelsat 708 failure investigation were unacceptable and the Apstar-1A insurance contract was in jeopardy.282


March 27 CGWIC letter to Loral invites Loral to Failure Investigation Committee meeting in Beijing from April 10-12 as guests of Intelsat.283
March 28 CGWIC issues press release listing four possible failure modes: (1) broken wire to inner torque motor, (2) blocking of inner frame axis, (3) open loop of follow-up frame, (4) environmental stress.284
March 29 Loral letter to CGWIC advises that Loral will attend the Failure Investigation Committee meeting and will send Loral personnel Wah Lim, Nabeeh Totah and Nick Yen.285
March Intelsat Board of Governors decides to terminate all existing launch service agreements with CGWIC.
April 3 Letter to U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Export Administration and U.S. Department of State, Office of Defense Trade Controls (ODTC), wherein Duncan Reynard, Loral, requests clarification as to which agency has licensing jurisdiction over matters concerning the Mabuhay and Apstar IIR programs.

Additionally, Loral recommends that ODTC re-issue licenses for these two programs to include the following language: "Questions and comments about Long March launch failures or investigations must be reviewed and approved prior to release in accordance with the procedures in the Technology Transfer Control Plan which was provided with the applicant's license application."


April 4 CGWIC letter invites Hughes to participate in an Independent Oversight Team.286
April 5 CGWIC reports to J & H that an Independent Review Committee is being established to meet the insurance community's minimum requirements to insure the upcoming Apstar-1A launch.287
April 10-12 Intelsat and Loral personnel are observers at the Failure Investigation Committee meeting in Beijing. PRC presents the results of their investigation into the launch failure (three volumes of data, reports, and conclusions). Loral personnel present: Lim, Totah, and Yen. Intelsat personnel present: Terry Edwards.288
April 11 CGWIC contacts Bansang Lee (Loral's representative in the PRC) to invite Lim to chair an Independent Review Committee (IRC). Lee passes invitation to Lim.289

Government Security Committee (GSC) meeting at Loral in Palo Alto. Loral President Robert Berry reports that he and others have been invited to review the PRC investigation into the Intelsat 708 launch failure. The U.S. review team will not provide advice or direction on how to correct deficiencies, but will advise the PRC that it must be more open and truthful about their launch problems. GSC member Steven Bryen suggests that Loral obtain State Department approval for any responses provided to the PRC by this review team.290


April 14 The Independent Review Committee (IRC) charter is established to review the work of the PRC's Failure Investigation Committee. A copy of the charter is faxed to Hughes IRC member Robert Steinhauer.291
April 15-16 Apstar-1A reinsurance meeting is held in Beijing, including representatives of APT, Hughes, CGWIC, and the insurance industry.292 Specific attendance includes: Hughes personnel Steinhauer, John Smay, Pulcher, Lanzit, Wong, Guan, and Lang; Loral personnel Wah Lim and Nick Yen; J & H personnel Swanson, O'Connor, Quinn, Davis, Zhang, Masson, and Chan.
April 16 Wah Lim briefs the Apstar-1A reinsurance meeting audience on the IRC creation, membership, and charter.293 One of Lim's briefing charts states: "IRC Objectives - To ensure the success of future Long March series launches: . . . Recommend to China Aerospace Corporation & CGWIC any other areas of improvement." 294
April 17 Lim sends a letter to CGWIC inviting the PRC to attend an IRC meeting in Palo Alto, on April 22-23, 1996.295

Lim sends a letter to Steinhauer at Hughes confirming the dates for the IRC meetings in Palo Alto and Beijing.296


April 19 Loral legal counsel Julie Bannerman, Export Control Officer Duncan Reynard, and Technology Control Manager William Schweickert learn of imminent arrival of PRC visitors.297
April 22 Reynard first learns that morning about PRC visitors coming (that day) for an IRC meeting. He learns this from Schweickert.

The IRC meeting in Palo Alto begins.298 Short technology export briefing given by Schweickert at the beginning of the first day. The briefing advises the IRC members that they have no export license for the activity, and what actions are permitted.299 The PRC visitors are not present on the first day. IRC members John Holt and Reinhard Hildebrandt are not present on the first day. The IRC members discuss the PRC launch failure investigation as documented in reports previously furnished by the PRC. Also, the IRC members draft numerous questions for the PRC.300


April 23 The IRC meeting in Palo Alto continues for a second day. The PRC visitors are present. British IRC member Holt is present. The IRC questions regarding the PRC failure analysis are presented.301

German IRC member Hildebrandt and PRC visitors arrive in afternoon.302

Loral's Yen briefs U.S. Government officials, including State Dept. staff: Oldenberg, Bemis, and Chih; Dept. of Transportation: Welles; Dept. of Commerce: Farmer, Chandler; and Dept. of Treasury: Murphy on the Long March 3B failure, the IRC and the intent of the IRC to issue a report.303


April 24 The IRC meeting in Palo Alto adds a third day to accommodate the PRC visitors' delayed arrival. Hughes IRC members John Smay and Robert Steinhauer are not present.304
April 25 Steinhauer meets with Professor Huang in Torrance, California, to learn what happened at IRC meeting on April 24. Also discussed PRC manufacturing processes for the inertial measurement unit (IMU) on the Long March 3B.305

Yen faxes minutes of the first IRC meeting to CGWIC.306


April 30- The second IRC meeting is held in Beijing. Ten to 20 PRC May 1 nationals are present to answer questions from the IRC. U.S. participants are Loral's Lim, Totah, and Yen, Smay from Hughes, and Frederick Ormsby.307
April 30 The IRC meets in Beijing. Meeting covers introductions, overview, and answers to the IRC questions from the first meeting in Palo Alto.308 That evening the IRC members caucus at their hotel to discuss issues and plan for the next day.309 They decide during the caucus to ask for a splinter meeting.
May 1 The IRC meeting in Beijing continues. Splinter meeting held on subject of control systems and the inertial platform. Splinter meeting attended by Fred Chan, Jack Rodden, Holt, and Yen. The IRC members are given tours of several facilities: IMU assembly and IMU test facilities.310 That evening they dine as guests of the PRC.311
May 2 Rodden, Chan, and Smay go sightseeing with Madame Zhou, the PRC representative for the Asia Pacific Telecommunications Company.312
May 2-5 British IRC member Holt sends draft he wrote by e-mail to Hughes IRC member Smay on May 2. On May 4, Smay sends e-mail to Holt providing comments on the draft - that e-mail message is also faxed to Lim at Loral.313 On May 5, Holt sends e-mail to Smay thanking him for his comments.314
May 3 Totah sends memorandum to Lim including comments, conclusions and short-term and long-term recommendations concerning the failure.315

Totah sends handwritten memorandum to Lim advising that he has made comments on Holt's draft, and that the draft was incomplete.316

Holt sends fax to Lim, including four pages of draft material on the cause of the failure.317

Smay writes 20 pages of draft material for the IRC Preliminary Report, including an outline and brief paragraphs for a few sections. Smay assigns a section titled "Recommended Design Fixes" to Steinhauer for drafting.318


May 4 Ormsby sends letter to Lim with comments on IRC meetings in Beijing, and includes three recommendations for PRC investigation and analysis.319

Smay sends e-mail to Holt with comments on Holt's draft. This e-mail was also faxed to Lim.320


May 5 German IRC member Hildebrandt sends fax to Lim with his contributions to the "Preliminary Assessment Report," including stating the need for "an intensive quality inspection" in the PRC IMU integration process and describing Western methodologies for reducing wiring connection problems. Lim's secretary faxes a copy to Yen.321
May 6 Holt sends five-page fax to Lim with comments and contributions to the IRC report.322

Smay sends the section of the IRC Report that he compiled to Yen.323

Yen faxes the minutes from the IRC meetings in Beijing to CGWIC.324


May 7 Yen faxes a draft of the Preliminary IRC Report to CGWIC and to the IRC members.325 Lim directed Yen to do this.326

Lim sends a letter to CGWIC, including minutes of IRC meetings on April 30 and May 1, along with action items and preliminary assessments that were made during and after those meetings. Lim indicates that the IRC will provide a formal report to CGWIC by May 10, 1996.


May 8 Holt sends a fax to Yen with comments and contributions to the IRC report, and thanking Yen for the draft of the Preliminary Report.327

Steinhauer sends a one-page fax to Yen with comments and contributions to the IRC report, mentioning "de-emphasis of safety issues." Steinhauer states: "In general, I agree with report and its findings." 328


May 9 Holt sends a one-page "urgent" fax to Yen with Holt's final thoughts on the IRC review. Holt does not concur with CALT's theory about an intermittent wire break because there is no evidence of reconnection.329

Hildebrandt sends a one-page fax to Yen stating that he has just received the fax of the draft IRC Preliminary Report. Hildebrandt offers a minor proofreading comment and states that he agrees with the draft.330

Steinhauer sends an e-mail to other Hughes employees saying that the IRC Preliminary Report is going to Beijing that night.331


May 10 Lim provides a copy of the draft Preliminary Report to Loral General Counsel Bannerman for her review, and he assumes that the draft was okay since he receives no comments from her.332

Yen faxes a cover letter and final version of IRC Preliminary Report, less attachments, to CGWIC. Yen also ships complete copies to all IRC members via express mail.333

Loral General Counsel Bannerman attempts to halt distribution of the IRC report after Yen faxes the report to the PRC.334

Lim sends a letter to IRC members advising of Yen's completion of the "formal IRC Preliminary Report" and that a copy has been sent to them. Lim states that the report is currently being reviewed by the Loral General Counsel's office and asks the IRC members not to discuss the report with non-IRC members.335


May 13 Yen faxes the final IRC Preliminary Report to a hotel in Beijing, for O'Connor of the Johnson & Higgins insurance brokerage firm.336

Yen also sends a copy of the Preliminary Report to O'Connor's office in Washington, D.C.337

Reynard first learns that the report has been sent to IRC members and possibly to J & H.338

Lim sends letter to He Xing of CGWIC advising that the IRC has completed the formal Preliminary Report and the report is currently under review by Loral legal counsel. Says he is sending a copy of the report to O'Connor.339

Lim sends letter to O'Connor advising that the report will not be furnished to CGWIC until an "export license or an equivalent authorization is obtained." 340


May 14 Reynard sends memorandum to Berry criticizing the IRC draft report as poorly organized, poorly written, and filled with inaccurate statements and illogical conclusions. Says that the Loral employees involved in this IRC work have already committed serious violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and and the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).341

Bob Kovac of DTSA reads article in Space News about Loral IRC investigation and calls Loral's Harold Bradshaw, who subsequently sets up a meeting the next day.


May 15 Yen sends fax to IRC members announcing that the IRC Preliminary Report has been submitted to the U.S. Government for review. During that review, the IRC members are not to disclose or discuss the content of this report with anyone, especially the PRC. The letter also asks that Holt and Hildebrandt (the non-U.S. IRC members) return all correspondence previously received from the IRC Secretary. Distribution: Lim, Ormsby, Steinhauer, Holt, Totah, Kachigan, Smay, Hildebrandt, Chan, and Rodden.342

Yen writes trip report to Keer for his April 23, 1996 meeting at the U.S. Trade Representative offices in Washington, D.C.343

Reynard notifies DTSA (Kovac) and State Department's Office of Defense Trade Controls (Kenneth Peoples) in person and in writing about the IRC and its report. He tells them that an executive summary section of the draft IRC report has been mistakenly sent to CGWIC. Bradshaw (from Loral's Washington, D.C. office) is also present.

Reynard denies that the IRC report has been sent to the PRC. Kovac tells Reynard that Loral may have violated the law, that they must halt all IRC activity, and that they should submit a voluntary disclosure to State Department. Reynard furnishes a copy of the report to Kovac.

Reynard meets with Peoples. Loral's presentation to Peoples is very general. Reynard may have told Peoples that some part of the IRC report was sent to the PRC - Peoples' recollection is unclear.

Reynard sends handwritten fax to Berry summarizing advice from State and DTSA. Includes the words: "Question: did anything go to CASC or CGWIC? - we need an honest answer to this." 344

Bannerman sends memorandum to Loral Counsel Zahler reporting Reynard's meetings with U.S. government.345


May 16 Steinhauer sends fax to Lim confirming plans to attend IRC meeting in Beijing on June 4-5. The fax further says Steinhauer is in agreement with the preliminary report dated May 10 and "Don't really believe that there is a lot of technology transfer present . . . Hope that your filter at SS/Loral understands situation." 346
May 17 Bradshaw sends fax to Reynard with copies of export licenses #544724 and #533593, commenting that DOD is upset and Loral seems to fail to take provisos seriously.347

Reynard receives from Bannerman several boxes of documents that have been collected from Loral personnel re the IRC activity. Reynard decides to generate an index of these documents over the weekend with the aid of his son.


May 20 Reynard advises Bannerman of his catalogue of the documents. Bannerman tells Reynard to stop that activity. She intends to have outside counsel perform that job. Reynard stores the documents and later turns them over to Poliner of Feith & Zell.

Lim and Yen admit to Reynard that they sent the IRC report to the PRC on May 10.


May 21 Reynard sends letter to William Lowell at the State Department, which briefly describes the circumstances of the IRC and its meetings with the PRC, and Reynard's recent meetings with State Department and DTSA. It says each agency received a copy of the IRC report and that Loral subsequently discovered that the executive summary of the report was mistakenly faxed to CGWIC. Loral is investigating the matter.348
May 23 Loral outside counsel, Feith & Zell, commences investigation of the IRC matter.349
May 27 Yen sends letter to all IRC members advising of Loral correspondence with State Department, and that all future IRC activities are on hold.350
May 29 State Department's William Lowell faxes a letter to Higgins, Corporate General Counsel, Hughes Electronics, to notify Hughes that the State Department has reason to believe that Hughes may have participated in serious violations of the ITAR by providing unauthorized defense services to the PRC in relation to the February 1996 launch failure of a Long March rocket. Lowell recommends Hughes take immediate steps: cease all related activity that may require approval, provide a full disclosure and enumerate all releases that would be controlled under ITAR.351

Lowell also sends a letter to Zahler, VP, Secretary and General Counsel, Loral, advising that there is reason to believe that Loral may have participated in serious violations of ITAR. Lowell recommends Loral take immediate steps: cease all related activity that may require approval, provide a full disclosure and enumerate all releases that would be controlled under ITAR.352


May 29-31 Feith & Zell attorneys visit Loral offices in Palo Alto to interview Loral personnel.353
May 30 Loral representative in Washington, D.C., Bradshaw and Loral outside counsel Feith meet with Lowell at State.354
May 31 Loral Counsel Zahler sends a letter to Lowell at State Department advising of Loral investigation, retention of outside counsel and stating that Loral personnel will be interviewed.355
June 3 Reynard sends a memorandum to Lim instructing him and Yen to retrieve all copies of anything sent out to the IRC Members. Also to ask the IRC Members to certify that no derivative copies were made or distributed.356
June 4-6 Feith & Zell attorneys conduct follow-up interviews in Palo Alto.357
June 4 Kuelbs from Hughes General Counsel's office sends a letter to Lowell responding to his letter dated May 29. Hughes reports that they are beginning an internal investigation of the matter.358
June 6 Lim sends letter to O'Connor asking him to retrieve all IRC-generated documents that the IRC transmitted to him by fax, express mail, or by distribution at any meetings, and to confirm that no derivative copies were made.359

Lim sends a letter to all IRC Members asking them to return all IRC-generated documents and to confirm that no derivative copies were made.360

Lim sends a letter to Zhixiong, CGWIC, asking that they return IRC documents and confirm no derivative copies were made.361


June 12 Smay and Steinhauer send a letter to Lim advising they cannot comply with request to return the IRC documents, per Hughes Counsel's instructions.362
June 17 Loral submits a Voluntary Disclosure to State Department through outside counsel, Feith & Zell, regarding suspected ITAR violations surrounding the activities of the IRC.363

CIA submits report to State Department on Independent Review Committee Preliminary Report in response to State Department request. No proliferation concerns.


June 27 Hughes documents its internal investigation into activities related to the IRC: "Report of Investigation of Alleged Violations of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)" for hand delivery to Lowell (State Department).364
July 18 CGWIC sends a letter to IRC members advising closure of IRC due to U.S. Government ban.365
August Department of Defense issues assessment of Independent Review Committee activity. Moderate harm to national security.
September 26 Hughes furnishes the State Department a list of nearly 150 names referenced in the June 27, 1996 Hughes report on the IRC and its exhibits. This was in response to a request from the State Department dated September 23, 1998.366
October 21-22 PRC presents a report on the Long March 3B Failure Investigation by CGWIC at a Mabuhay program meeting at Loral in Palo Alto. DTSA monitor, Major Smith, was invited to that meeting.367

1997


March 19 Central Intelligence Agency issues assessment of IRC matter that conflicts with the Defense Department assessment.
March 25 The State Department issues assessment based on Defense Department and CIA analyses. Significant improvement to the Long March 3 guidance system. State also reviewed the CIA's assessment and disagreed with it.
May 16 DOD/DTSA assessment on the IRC matter is issued. DTSA finds that the IRC performed an unauthorized defense service that are likely to lead to improvements in reliability of rockets and missiles. Recommended referral to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution.368
August 19 Agila 2 satellite, formerly named Mabuhay, is successfully launched from Xichang, PRC, on a Long March 3B. Loral manufactured the satellite.369
October 16 Apstar-2R satellite is successfully launched from Xichang, PRC. Loral manufactured the satellite.370

1998


February 18 President Clinton approves a waiver for the Loral-built Chinasat 8 satellite to be exported to the PRC for launch.
May 7 Hughes documents background information regarding the IRC activities. This report is furnished to the Space Subcommittee of the House Science Committee on May 8, 1998.371
June 15 Congressional staffs from the House National Security Committee, International Relations Committee, and Science Committee are briefed on the export control process by officials from the State Department. David Tarbell, Director of DTSA, testifies that a rocket failure analysis was a defense service and therefore subject to license.372
October Hughes reports on its Internet web site that "Hughes employees drafted no portion of the report that was prepared by the committee . . ." and the "Hughes employees did not write any portion of this [IRC] report."

Technical Afterword

Technical Aspects of Technology Transfer During the Loral Failure Investigation

Technical Afterword Technical aspects of Technology Transfer during the Loral Failure Investigation

Background

The February 14, 1996 failure of the PRC Long March 3B during the launching of the Intelsat 708 communications satellite, built by Loral, set in motion a number of accident investigation and reporting activities. These brought PRC engineers and designers face-to-face with Western engineers and technical experts in satellite and related rocket technologies.

The initial technical analyses of the accident were conducted by two groups of PRC scientists and engineers. These analyses were presented in several sessions in March, April, and May 1996 to representatives of the satellite launch insurers, re-insurers, Intelsat and Loral.

Initially, greater priority seems to have been placed on briefings and discussions with representatives of Hughes and the PRC-controlled Asia Pacific Telecommunications Co., Ltd., and their respective insurers and re-insurers. This was because Hughes was the builder and Asia Pacific Telecommunications was the owner of the Apstar 1A satellite, which was the next satellite scheduled to be launched (on April 1) on a Long March rocket (albeit the Long March 3, a different version from the 3B). Before that scheduled next launch could take place, these organizations would need to be convinced that the Apstar 1A would not be exposed to the same defects or hazards as those in the Long March 3B rocket that had caused the failure of the Intelsat 708 launch.

Loral, too, was highly motivated to remedy the defects in the Long March 3B because its upcoming Mabuhay satellite launch was the next scheduled aboard the Long March 3B.

On March 9, 1996, Hughes representatives toured the launch site facilities, which had suffered some damage as a result of the Intelsat 708 accident, and subsequently held discussions concerning the findings of the PRC accident investigations.

On March 14, 1996, a meeting was held with the insurance underwriters for the Apstar 1A in Beijing. Hughes and Asia Pacific Telecommunications representatives were also in attendance. The main information the PRC rocket authorities and the APT representatives sought to convey to the insurance underwriters was that the accident investigation of the Intelsat 708 launch failure had shown that the Long March accident was caused by the failure of the inertial measurement unit. This is the subsystem that provides attitude, velocity, and position measurements for guidance and control of the rocket.

The PRC representatives stated that the inertial measurement unit used on the Long March 3B that failed was different from the one used on the Long March 3, which was the rocket that would be used to launch the Apstar 1A, and that therefore there should be no cause for concern for the launch of the Apstar 1A.

Representatives of the insurance underwriters then stated that insurance of the Apstar 1A launch would be conditioned on delivery of a final report on the root causes of the Long March 3B failure, and a review of that report by an independent oversight team.

A subsequent meeting with the insurers and re-insurers was scheduled to take place in Beijing around mid-April, at which time the PRC representatives were to present in detail the results of their accident investigation of the Long March 3B.

The Apstar 1A re-insurers meeting took place on April 15 and 16. It included both items normally addressed in preflight reviews as related to the upcoming Apstar 1A launch, and the issues arising from the Long March 3B rocket failure in the Intelsat 708 launch.

The latter issues were largely covered in presentations by Huang Zuoyi, President of Great Wall Aerospace, a California-based subsidiary of China Great Wall Industry Corporation. These presentations substantially made the same points as were made at the March 14 meeting: the Long March 3B failure was in the inertial measurement unit, and this was not cause for concern for the Apstar 1A launch since it would be launched by a Long March 3 rocket having a different (and older) inertial measurement unit with a previous record of successful launches.

At this same meeting, in response to the re-insurers' earlier-stated requirement, China Great Wall Industry Corporation announced the creation of an Independent Review Committee to review the findings and recommendations of the PRC committees investigating the Long March 3B failure.

Dr. Wah Lim of Loral was to be the Independent Review Committee Chairman, and Nick Yen, also of Loral, was to be the Secretary. Both were present at the meeting and discussed the role of the Independent Review Committee, and the roster of members of the committee. The two prospective members from Hughes, Dr. John Smay and Robert Steinhauer, were also present, as was Nabeeh Totah, a senior technical staff member at Loral, who would serve as one of four technical experts provided by Loral to support the Independent Review Committee.

During this meeting, the participants were taken on a tour of the Long March rocket assembly area and were shown, in partially-opened state, units described by the PRC as the older Long March 3 inertial measurement unit and the newer Long March 3B inertial measurement unit. Thus, almost half of the Independent Review Committee participants (members plus supporting experts) had prior exposure to the findings and views of the PRC representatives derived from their accident investigations, and they had opportunities to raise questions and issues with the PRC representatives well before the first meeting of the Independent Review Committee.

The Long March Series of Rockets

The PRC Long March rocket evolved from the PLA's long-range ballistic missiles, much as most of the U.S. heavy-lift rockets were derived from earlier ballistic missiles: the Atlas E and F; the Titan II; and the Thor (the forerunner of the Delta rocket).

Much of the civil and commercial satellite traffic needs to be put into geosynchronous orbit over the equator at 22,000 miles above the Earth's surface. At this altitude, the satellite orbital speed is exactly that needed to keep a constant position over a point on the surface of the rotating earth below. A common method of achieving these orbits is for the rocket to first place the satellite into a highly elliptical geosynchronous transfer orbit, and then for the satellite itself to circularize the orbit at geosynchronous altitude, using a so-called kick rocket motor on board the satellite.

The need to achieve geosynchronous transfer orbit with increasingly heavy payloads has led rocket designers to add high-energy liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen upper stages on top of the original lower stages that still use the fuels and oxidizers of their ballistic missile antecedents. In addition, increased thrust levels have been added to these first stages by means of strap-on booster rocket motors. The Long March series of rockets has gone through just this set of evolutionary steps, paralleling in this respect its American counterparts.

Guidance Systems for Ballistic Missiles and Rockets

The requirements for guidance accuracy for intercontinental ballistic missiles depend on a nation's strategic objectives and policies, but they are generally more demanding than the accuracy that is required to place a satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit. For example, for a ballistic missile with a target range of 5,500 miles, an error of one foot per second in the velocity at last-stage burnout (23,000 feet per second) would lead to an error in target impact of about one mile. A satellite on orbit, on the other hand - if such accuracy in its orbital parameters is required - can measure its position over an extended period of time with the aid of ground tracking, and adjust for orbital velocity differences of this magnitude with on-board thrusters using only a few pounds of fuel.

It appears that in the PRC, guidance systems for rockets were initially based on instruments and inertial platform technologies taken over from the predecessor ballistic missile programs. But the PRC's development of inertial guidance for rockets has, as in the West, developed over time in directions somewhat different than inertial guidance for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Over time, inertial guidance systems for rockets have incorporated simpler, cheaper, lighter, and more reliable components, as well as concepts such as ring-laser gyros and strapdown technology in which there is no inertial platform required to maintain a fixed position in space. In contrast, the latest U.S. ICBM inertial guidance system is the Advanced Inertial Reference Sphere (AIRS), used on the Peacekeeper missile. It is probably the most accurate inertial measurement unit ever developed and manufactured. The inertial measurement units used on earlier ballistic missiles used an inertial platform mounted on a set of gimbaled axis frames. The AIRS, on the other hand, consists of a beryllium sphere floating in a fluorocarbon fluid within an outer shell, with no gimbals or bearings at all, housing highly accurate gyros and accelerometers. The AIRS is complex, difficult to manufacture, and very expensive.

The PRC representatives had indicated (or allowed the impression to be conveyed) to their Western customers and their insurers that the inertial measurement unit used on the several versions of the Long March 2 and 3, up to the 3B, was essentially identical to the inertial measurement unit used on their long-range ballistic missile. Rather than basing their claims of the inertial measurement unit's reliability on the more slender record of space launches alone at the time the Long March was first offered to foreign customers for launch services, the PRC may have offered this information to enhance the record of reliability of the inertial measurement unit. This permitted the PRC to show that the Long March had a longer and larger record of successful flights than would be assumed on the basis of its use in space launches only.

As presented by the PRC participants, the older inertial measurement unit used in the Long March 3 weighed 140 kilograms, and measured 500 x 600 x 800 mm. It had three gimbal axes and three single-axis gyroscopes on its inertial platform. It was also said to have a high degree of redundancy to preclude single point failures. The newer Long March 3B inertial measurement unit was presented as having a weight of 48 kilograms, and dimensions of 300 x 300 x 400 mm. It had four gimbal axes with only two (two-axis) gyroscopes on its inertial platform.

The fourth gimbal axis in the newer Long March 3B unit is associated with the addition of a follow-up frame to the platform mechanism. The follow-up frame precludes the occurrence of gimbal lock. This can take place in inertial platform assemblies when the rocket undergoes large angles of inclination, and two of the frames of a three-gimbal inertial platform mechanism move into the same plane.

Thus, the Long March 3B inertial measurement unit, as described and displayed by the PRC participants, is an essentially different subsystem from the inertial measurement unit of the Long March 3. In fact, it was reported that some members of the insurance community felt that the PRC had an obligation to inform them of this change affecting the reliability and performance of the Long March series of rockets, and should have done so before the Intelsat 708 launch.

The Meetings of the Independent Review Committee

The first meeting of the Independent Review Committee was held in Palo Alto, California, on April 21 and 22, 1996. Some members of the committee and its supporting experts had already had considerable prior exposure to the facts of the accident that occurred during the flight of the Long March 3B rocket carrying the Intelsat 708 satellite.

According to its charter, the Independent Review Committee was nominally an entity responsive to the China Aerospace Corporation, the parent company of China Great Wall Industry Corporation. The President of China Aerospace Corporation convened the Independent Review Committee. It was he who appointed the Independent Review Committee's Chairman, Dr. Wah Lim of Loral.

During the first day of the first Independent Review Committee meeting, those committee members present were briefed by a Loral export control officer concerning export control limitations that would apply to Independent Review Committee activities. In the recollection of several of those present, there were few questions and little discussion of the briefing - a surprising situation, in view of the seeming dissonance between the Independent Review Committee charge in its charter and the restrictions expressed in the export control briefing.

In that briefing, members of the Independent Review Committee were told that disclosure of information that would enhance rocket or missile capabilities of the PRC would not be permissible. But as one participant in the Independent Review Committee activity said, "You can't help but get a little bit too detailed in the interest of finding out what the cause of the failure is. It's possible there could have been [circumstances] where you ask leading questions which you're not supposed to."

The first meeting was devoted to familiarizing the members of the Independent Review Committee, especially those who had not taken part in the earlier April 15 and 16 meeting, with the circumstances of the Long March 3B failure, the data acquired from telemetry, and the findings of the PRC accident investigation up to that time. The Independent Review Committee asked many questions having to do with understanding and interpreting the following:

  • Telemetry data
  • The particulars of the inertial measurement unit hardware
  • The details of the Long March 3B pre-launch procedures and launch operations
  • The vibration and acoustic environment to which the inertial measurement unit was exposed in flight and in ground testing
  • The scope and technical details of the analyses pursued in the PRC accident investigation

Many of the Independent Review Committee's questions could not be answered immediately, and were listed for consideration at the second meeting of the committee that was to be held in Beijing on April 30 and May 1, 1996.

The PRC presentations at the Independent Review Committee meeting on April 21 and 22 repeated the main accident investigation finding reported in the meeting of April 15 and 16: that the cause of the failure was in the inertial measurement unit. Further, the failure in the inertial measurement unit was ascribed by the PRC participants to the loss of current to the torque motor of the inner frame gimbal axis. This loss of current, in turn, was hypothesized to be due to a break in the wire (or soldered joint) that supplied power to the torque motor.

In support of this hypothesis, the PRC participants presented "hardware in the loop" simulation results. The simulation showed agreement with telemetered inertial platform data from the failed flight for about the first six seconds after liftoff. On this basis, the Independent Review Committee granted in its statements and reports to the PRC that the loss of current to the inner frame gimbal torque motor was the most probable cause of the failure.

However, the telemetered flight data indicated three cycles of reversals of platform motion over the approximately twenty-two seconds of flight from liftoff to impact. These data were not matched by the simulations. To explain this cyclic motion, the PRC representatives assumed that the break in the circuit to the inner frame axis torque motor was such that electrical contact could be successively made and broken three times during the flight.

From the first time this explanation was offered, the members of the Independent Review Committee were skeptical of it, and repeatedly questioned it. The PRC participants, on the other hand, never abandoned it from the beginning to the end of the Independent Review Committee activity.

The Independent Review Committee's refusal to accept the adequacy of the PRC participants' explanations, analyses, and simulations to determine the root cause of the failure, and the committee's insistence on the need to simulate the periodic platform motions for the entire 22 seconds of flight, are the main issues raised in the minutes of its first meeting. These topics remained as prominent issues in the committee's preliminary report.

Because the U.S. Government directed cessation of its activities earlier than planned, the preliminary report was the last report issued by the Independent Review Committee.

The other significant issues that were given serious attention by the Independent Review Committee at its first meeting, as reflected in the minutes of the meeting, included the list of questions that the PRC participants were to answer at the following meeting to be held in Beijing. These questions concerned the following areas:

  • Quality assurance and control, including acceptance testing procedures for the inertial measurement unit
  • The design and manufacture of inertial measurement units, and their assembly into the rockets
  • The validity of the test environments (vibration, noise, and thermal) in the Long March 3B vehicle equipment bay where the inertial measurement unit was located
  • Range safety at the launch site

The second meeting of the Independent Review Committee took place in Beijing on April 30 and May 1, 1996. On the major issue of the cause of the Long March 3B failure during in the launch of the Intelsat 708 satellite, the PRC participants' conclusions remained unchanged.

The most probable root cause of the accident, the PRC asserted, was a break in the circuit carrying current to the torque motor of the inner frame gimbal. This break they attributed to a failure in the wire directly connected to the torque motor, or one of its soldered joints.

To explain the three cycles of platform motion observed in telemetry, the PRC still advanced the hypothesis that the motion of the wire and the platform caused electrical contact to be made and broken three times. In the failure-tree analysis presented by the PRC participants to examine all possible causes of the Long March 3B launch failure, all failure possibilities not involving the torque motor of the inner frame gimbal axis were ruled out.

The PRC participants also presented a list of proposed fixes to the Long March 3B inertial measurement unit. This list included:

  • Improvements in soldering
  • The cutting of wires to allow length sufficient to allow for the maximum platform frame travel to be encountered
  • Non-destructive pull tests of soldered joints
  • X-ray inspection of wires
  • Improved acceptance testing, and addition of acoustic environment
  • Redundancy in design
  • Greater attention to quality supervision of suppliers
  • Most of these items follow from the erroneously postulated broken-wire failure mode.

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