Chang Zheng 2E
Launch vehicle Chang Zheng 2E
Launch site Xichang Space Centre, Sichuan, China
Date/Time 1995-01-25 22:40
Description Payload exploded shortly after lift-off
Cause Disputed
Payload Apstar 2
Desired orbit Geostationary transfer orbit


Official version, according to a press release dated 23 July 1995:

Apstar 2, an HS-601 communications satellite built by Hughes Space and Communications International, Inc. (HSCI), was launched by an LM-2E launch vehicle provided by PRC Great Wall Industry Corporation (CGWIC) at Xichang Satellite Launch Center on 26 January 1995. After a normal flight for about fifty seconds, an explosion occurred and resulted in the total loss of both the launch vehicle and the satellite.

After the failure, experts and engineers from CGWIC and HSCI have exerted extensive, scientific and earnest investigations for the past six months to pinpoint the cause of the failure.

Both CGWIC and HSCI confirm that the launch met the requirements stated in the Apstar 2/LM-2E Interface Control Document.

CGWIC and HSCI concluded in their reports that there are two (2) possible causes for the failure:

1. Under the shear wind aloft conditions in 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 winds aloft conditions in winter season, the fairing of the launch vehicle suffered local structural damage.

There is, however, an interesting theory that the failure was actually caused by the satellite to be launched.

Phillip S Clark of the UK-based Molniya Space Consultancy says the explosion occured because "the Chinese did not receive anything like sufficient data which were required for planning the environment under the payload shroud at launch."

He added that "Hughes told the Chinese that if they went public with the true reasons for the failure (i.e. the restrictions in the US releasing essential information to the Chinese technicians) then they would never get another Hughes satellite to launch."

Launch Failures Chronology