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III. Clumsy Distortion of the Facts

The Cox Report spends two chapters on detailing the investigation process and making a fuss about the Apstar-2 satellite launch failure by a LM-2E on January 26, 1995, and the Intelsat-708 satellite launch failure by a LM-3B on February 15, 1996. The report concludes that China "stole'' or "illegally acquired'' US space technology through the failure investigation. It says, "US satellite manufacturers transferred missile design information and know-how to the PRC without obtaining the legally required licenses. This information has improved the reliability of PRC rockets useful for civilian and military purposes. The illegally transmitted information is useful for the design and improved reliability of future PRC ballistic missiles, as well.'' Facts prove this conclusion is ill-founded.



Launch time

Number of launches

Number of failure

Success rate




Atlas Series

Titan Series










LM Series

Apr.70-May 99








June 89-Apr.99





LM-2C (including LM-2C/SD)

Nov. 75-Dec.98




The Cox Report claims that during the failure investigation, US satellite manufacturers provided China with a "diagnostic program'' for failure analysis and "transferred missile design information and know-how''. The fact is that, with more than 40 years of independent development of rockets and missiles, China has possessed a complete set of reliability design methods and failure diagnosis treatment regulations, as well as a strict quality guarantee system. The more than 100 flights undertaken are sufficient to ensure China develops and manufactures highly reliable high-quality missiles and carrier rockets, and acquires full ability to tackle difficult problems in the launching process and remove failures. Compared with the US expendable carrier rockets of the same category, the reliability of China's carrier rockets is by no means inferior (see table 1). Prior to the Chinese and American companies' joint analysis of the Apstar-2 satellite launch failure by a LM-2E in 1995, China's LM-2C rocket had recorded 14 successful launches in succession. Thereafter, it launched an iridium satellite of the Motorola Co. into space six straight times without a hitch. The US Titan-4 rocket, however, suffered three successive failures on August 2, 1998, and on April 9 and 30, 1999. This speaks for itself. Shortly after the Apstar-2 launch failure by a LM-2E on January 26, 1995, the Chinese side immediately set up a failure investigation leading group and a failure investigation committee. The committee had under it six failure analysis groups for rocket debris analysis, fairing analysis, dynamics coupling analysis, video-tape analysis and telemetry date analysis. They made in-depth and careful studies and analysis on several important parts, including the structure of the fairing, and questioned the method for satellite-launch vehicle coupling. The US side also made an analysis of the causes leading to the launch vehicle and satellite failure. In their joint announcement issued in Beijing on July 23, 1995, the China Great Wall Industry Corp. and the US Hughes Space and Communications International Inc. concluded that there were two possible causes:

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

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

The Chinese side accepted the first cause, holding that it is the resonance of the satellite and the upper stage with the launch vehicle that caused the failure, while the Hughes Inc. opted for the second cause, believing that the failure resulted from insufficient strength of the fairing. The two sides failed to reach a compromise conclusion. It is normal for either side to announce its analysis results to support its viewpoint, and this has nothing to do with the question of one side giving away techniques to the other. The Chinese side firmly believes that China has mature experience in fairing design, and the fairing of the LM-2E was designed and manufactured on the basis of 10 successful flights of Long March rockets that were installed with the same type. Actually, the fairing China still uses on the LM-2C and LM-3 rockets belongs to the same category as that used on Apstar-2 satellite. No reinforcement measures have been adopted, and the ensuing launches have all been successful. The LM-2C/SD rocket, which successfully launched two iridium satellites on June 12, 1999, also used a product of the same category.

The Cox Report claims that China illegally "acquired'' the satellite mechanical model technique from the United States through the failure investigation. This is also contrary to the facts. In order to work on the coupled loads computation of the launch vehicle and satellite, the latter's manufacturers must provide a satellite mechanical model. This is used to shrink the satellite structure, through mathematical means, into a group of data of totally equal value in mechanics. During the early period of rocket development, China had established a rocket mechanical model and, in addition, had determined various external forces (such as engine thrust and aerodynamics) during the process of flight. Strength and Environment, a professional Chinese publication in 1980, carried special introductions to this model shrinking method, which, after 1984, was included in the Structure Vibration and Dynamic Substructure Analysis Method, a textbook compiled by Shanghai's Fudan University. This is also an effective method, universally employed worldwide, to describe the satellite structure. The former Soviet Union and the United States also openly published articles about this method. Once the satellite structure, shrunk through this method, is connected with the rocket model, coupled loads computation can then be conducted. The method to calculate the coupled loads of satellite and the launch vehicle that is commonly used in international commercial launching services can help satellite manufacturers keep the satellite's technical secrets because the mechanical model can by no means restore the real structure of the satellite.

As to the investigation into the failed launch of the Intelsat-708 on February 15, 1996, the Cox Report claims that it was under the direction of US experts of the Independent Review Committee (IRC) that the Chinese found the key cause for the failure. The US satellite company demonstrated to the Chinese side how to improve the design and reliability of the guidance system of the LM rockets, which could also be used in developing ballistic missiles. In fact, the cause of the failure was found by Chinese scientists independently. This lay in the quality of the welding of the electronic device in the follow-up frame loop of the rocket inertia platform. Such a low-level problem has nothing to do with the design and improvement of the rocket.

After the failure launch, the China Great Wall Industry Corp., the major Chinese contractor of international commercial launching services, released the list of main Chinese astrophysicists who comprised the failure analysis group, failure investigation committee and failure examination committee. This was followed later by the publication of investigation procedures and processes. In late February, the Chinese localized the faults on the platform and one month later, they defined four possible failure modes--broken wire of the torque motor of the inner frame, blocking of the inner frame axis, open circuitry of follow-up frame and stress failure due to poor environment. Then, they made a further careful study, analysis and test of the four possibilities one by one, gradually ruling out three of them. The semi-hardware-in-large-loop simulation test made in mid-May led to the final conclusion that the open circuitry of the follow-up frame was the most likely cause of the failure. The intensive analysis and test, as well as dissection inspection on various components, which were conducted between June 17 and July 6, localized the fault, leading to a conclusion that the root cause of the launch failure was the poor bonding force due to deterioration of the welding quality of the gold-aluminum bonding point inside the power output module of the follow-up frame's servo-loop, causing "no current output'' from the loop. The slant of the inertial platform, which eventually led to the failure, therefore occurred.

During the failure investigation, the Chinese side, under special circumstances and conditions, accepted the IRC consisting of six experts from the United States, Germany and Britain. At that time, the failure launch of the LM-3B had seriously affected follow-up contracts, especially the implementation of the Apstar-1A contract. According to common international practice, commercial satellites can be launched only after both the satellite and the rocket have been insured. International insurance companies had time and again strongly urged the Chinese side to set up an independent review committee to assess the results of the failure investigation made by the Chinese side, which was considered the premise for them to insure Apstar-1A.

The IRC announced its founding on April 15 and terminated its mission on May 13. During the 20-odd days, it held only two meetings--one on April 22-23 in the United States and the other on April 30-May 1 in Beijing. The actual work only lasted for four days. Since it was the LM-3, and not the LM-3B responsible for the February 15 failure, that would carry Apstar-1A, the Chinese side mainly explained to the insurance companies and the IRC the differences between the rocket platforms of LM-3B and LM-3, trying to make it clear that the failure of the LM-3B would not affect the reliability of the launching of Apstar-1A by the LM-3. Meanwhile, to re-establish the confidence of insurance companies in the rocket, the Chinese side also released to them and the IRC the periodical investigation results of the February 15 failure that had been proved by test. Facing sharp market competition, China cannot easily give out its rocket manufacturing secrets. During the existence of the IRC, the Chinese side never expected it to help in the comprehensive investigation and analysis of the failure. Therefore, the Chinese side did not present the entire failure investigation report to the IRC. Under such circumstances, how could the IRC reveal to the Chinese side the guidance system design for the "improvement'' of the LM rocket, and what is the basis for such an "improvement''? In fact, the IRC only pointed out in its appraisal report that "no indication was found which conflicts with the Chinese conclusion'', and it did not introduce any technology to the Chinese side at all. Even during the existing period of the IRC, the Chinese side had followed its own plan from the very beginning, and actively continued the failure analysis work. It could well be said that the Chinese side had completely relied on its own effort to find out the final cause and take improvement measures which ensured the following successes of the LM-3B.

The Cox Report devotes a lot of space to repeatedly stressing that although the Chinese side confirmed four modes as the possible cause for the failure at the end of March, it ruled out two modes including the follow-up frame in April and focused its research on the inner frame. It says it was not until the IRC "directed'' that the Chinese "abandoned testing of the inner frame'', "started vigorously testing the follower frame'', staged the simulation test at the suggestion of the IRC and finally localized the failure to the follow-up frame. Actually, the follow-up frame had remained the focus of the investigation of Chinese scientists. In early April, the Chinese experts confirmed its failure based on a series of theoretical analyses. On April 9, they decided to make simulation for the semi-hardware-in-large-loop of the follow-up frame. From April 16, the Chinese side began to compile the Simulation Test Guideline (the Semi-Hardware-in-the-Close-Loop Simulation Test Guideline for the Four-Axis Inertial Platform Failure Mode) and prepare the method and conditions for the test. The Chinese experts designed the mathematical models of launch vehicles, servo-mechanism and rate gyroscope, drew up the flight software for test purposes, prepared and checked the simulation test facilities including the test platform, simulation rotation stand and on-board computer and manufactured some auxiliary items necessary for the test, such as platform support deck, interface circuit and cable. It took one month to complete these tasks before the interference of the IRC. Since the appraisal of the IRC was derived from the Apstar-1A insurance, and the latter was an episode in the investigation of China's LM-3B failure, the Chinese side, following the principle of submitting only the results that had been proved by test, presented limited materials to the IRC. Consequently, what the IRC learned was only the periodical result of the failure investigation made by the Chinese side. The claims in the Cox Report that the Chinese side immediately "abandoned'' testing of the inner frame under the guidance of the IRC do not accord with the facts. It was in mid-May that the Chinese side cautiously ruled out the inner frame mode based on the simulation test and finally confirmed the follow-up frame mode. Its failure investigation was carried out in a scientific way, relying entirely on its own effort. The failure diagnosis procedure adopted by the Chinese side had been proved correct by decades of practice.

The Cox Report says, "China Great Wall Industry Corp. determined that the root cause of the failure was a deterioration in the gold-aluminum wiring connections within a power amplifier for the follow-up frame torque motor in the inertial measurement unit. This was the very problem the Independent Review Committee had identified in their meetings with PRC officials and in the Preliminary Report.'' That conforms neither to the facts, nor to the basic law of scientific investigation. The Chinese side's investigation lasted for five months, with a great deal of testing demonstrations. In fact, the confirmation of the cause for such a specific failure could hardly be made with only limited data material from the preliminary investigation stage, and without a huge amount of testings. During the IRC's four actual work days, the February 15 failure investigation was still in the stage of analyzing and verifying the failure mode, and a great deal of testing work of the sub-systems, parts and components remained to be done. How could people localize the details of the final fault spot up to the component in advance?

The Cox Report holds that the investigation of the February 15 failure helped the Chinese side improve its design scheme of guidance system. In fact, although the LM-3B had a failure in its inertia platform, the main cause was the quality of component, which had nothing to do with the platform design scheme, to say nothing of an "improvement'' of the guidance system. Thus, how could the conclusion "to improve the design of the guidance system used in the PRC's newest Long March rocket'' be drawn in the Cox Report? Further more, how could the inference that such an improvement was "capable of being adapted for use as the guidance system for future PRC road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles'' be made? How could anyone believe the Cox Report which has listed so many sensational conclusions according to this kind of logic?

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