Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Space Disaster ... Your Never Heard Of

With a bow to itsfullofstars


Intelsat 708 was a telecommunications satellite built by the American company Space Systems/Loral intended to be launched into a geostationary orbit and operated by Intelsat. It was destroyed during a launch failure on February 15, 1996, causing fatalities near the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at Xichang, People's Republic of China, and prompting political controversy around the world.

The Intelsat 708 satellite was to be launched aboard a Long March 3B rocket. This rocket failed at launch due to an engineering defect and crashed into a village near the launch site, which reportedly killed an unknown number of Chinese civilians and caused other damage. The nature and extent of the damage remain a subject of dispute; the Chinese government, through its official Xinhua news agency, reported that six people were killed and 57 injured. Neutral sources claimed that the number of fatalities was likely to number in the thousands and possibly tens of thousands.

Because Intelsat 708 contained sophisticated communications and encryption technology, and because portions of the debris were never located by the satellite's developers and may have been recovered by the government of People's Republic of China, Intelsat and the Clinton administration suffered criticism in the United States for allowing a possible technology transfer to China. (See also export controls.) These concerns prompted an investigation by the U.S. Congress. In 2002, the United States Department of State charged Hughes Electronics and Boeing Satellite Systems with export control violations in connection with the failed launch of Intelsat 708 and the prior failed launch of the APSTAR II satellite.

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