Volume 2, No.
June 25 House Science Committee Hearing: "China:
Last Thursday's House Science Committee hearing was supposed to
shed light on the dual-use nature of civil space technologies
transferred to China, according to Science Committee Chairman James
Sensenbrenner (R-WI). But it quickly eroded into a debate over
export-control policies of the Clinton Administration and the
possible illegal transfer by Loral/Hughes of technical information
to Chinese authorities.
Questions by members of the committee directed to the witnesses
were highly partisan, with Republicans trying to score points at
President Clinton's expense and Democrats defending the
Administration's policies. The following is a synopsis of the
Gary Milhollin, Director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear
China has come under heavy criticism for transferring
rocket technology to Pakistan. But the "first rockets in both India
and Pakistan were launched by NASA under a policy of peaceful space
cooperation," Milhollin told the committee. "The result of that
cooperation," he explained, "has been long- range missiles tipped
with nuclear warheads."
Oren Phillips, Vice President for Business Development for
Milhollin said India's largest nuclear missile is an
"international product." The first stage is a copy of the American
Scout rocket, the design of which was provided by NASA to Indian
officials. The second stage is "based on a surface-to-air
missile...that India bought from Russia," he said. Knowledge about
liquid propulsion was provided by France. And the German Space
Agency contributed tutorials on designing a guidance system. It
also "helped India build test facilities, and trained Indians in
the use of the special composite materials needed to make rocket
nozzles and nose cones."
The U.S. also provided assistance to Pakistan and China. "NASA
launched Pakistan's first rocket, a U.S. made Nike-Cajun,"
Milhollin explained. And "American universities taught many of
China's leading scientists how to make better long-range
During the Cold War, about three-quarters of Thiokol's
propulsion business was defense related, with the remaining amount
in the commercial and civil space market. Today the ratio is
reversed, Phillips said, with Thiokol actively seeking foreign
customers. The company is working with Japan to provide new
propulsion systems for its launch vehicles, as well as "working
with companies in Spain, France, and Germany and elsewhere to sell
boosters that will be used on their launch vehicles and potentially
launched from U.S. spaceports."
Paul Ross, Group Vice President at Alliant Techsystems
Thiokol's biggest worry is competition from the "non-market
economies of Russia, China, and Ukraine," Phillips stated. "The
current policies of the U.S. government, and the global pursuits of
the U.S. launch vehicle industry, help to preserve and expand the
Russian and Chinese strategic missile design and manufacturing
capability at the expense of our own similar capability," Phillips
warned. With each launch in China, Phillips said they "become a
little smarter, a little more capable, a little more reliable, and
ultimately more competitive. In the final analysis," he explained,
"we are directly strengthening non-market economy countries' space
launch capability and indirectly strengthening their strategic
missile capability while damaging our own."
The Chinese launch vehicle industry, Ross testified,
"has demonstrated a willingness to substantially undercut U.S.
domestic launch vehicle pricing of satellite launchers." What this
means for U.S. companies such as Alliant is simple arithmetic, Ross
ventured. "More U.S. satellites on Chinese launch vehicles," he
said, "means fewer on U.S. domestic launch vehicles."
John Pike, Director, Space Policy Project, Federation of
In summary, Ross pointed out that "the U.S. space launch and
strategic industrial bases are one and the same. A loss of
satellite launch business to foreign competition diminishes
companies that support the U.S. strategic deterrent, while at the
same time subsidizing the development of a foreign capability. We
experience a loss of our strategic capability and business while
China has a relatively small number of medium and
long-range missiles tipped with nuclear weapons. Since 1981, it has
been able to target U.S. cities with five-megaton "city busting"
warheads. China is now modernizing its forces and, by the turn of
the century, is expected to field a three-stage, solid-fueled ICBM
with a one-megaton warhead. (Air Force General Eugene Habiger
stated on March 31, 1998, that the missiles will be equipped with
Leon McKinney, President of McKinney Associates
Pike testified that the "recent exchanges between American and
Chinese companies may have resulted in the transfer of technical
information of some military significance." But he claimed that
"China has no capabilities to attack the United States that it did
not have a year ago, or a decade ago."
"The launch of several Motorola Iridium communications
satellites on a Chinese launch vehicle," Pike said, "did not
contribute to Chinese capabilities to launch multiple warheads on
its missiles, but rather reflected existing Chinese capabilities,
both for launching multiple satellites and multiple warheads."
According to Pike, "on balance the course taken in this decade
with respect to the Chinese launch vehicle has had diverse benefits
and manageable risks." U.S. policies, he said, have "strengthened
the American satellite industry, enhancing our global dominance of
this strategic sector and in the process increasing the diversity
and capability of communications available to our military forces
McKinney, an aerospace engineer who previously was a
systems performance analyst at McDonnell Douglas, testified that
"it would have been of immense help to Chinese engineers to have
American engineers, with knowledge about similar launch vehicle
failures, make suggestions or ask particular questions about this
or that vehicle subsystem."
In October of 1996, NASA began discussions with China about the
possibility of expanding cooperation in Earth science. Areas for
potential cooperation are atmospheric science, land-cover and
land-use change, natural hazards, solid Earth science and
geodynamics, calibration and validation of new Earth science
sensors and data sets, and topographic mapping.
"Should the earth science data packages contain for example, the
detailed models of atmospheric winds developed by the U.S. over the
past decades, or the equally detailed models of the earth's
geodesics," McKinney said, "then the Chinese would be receiving
valuable scientific data which would definitely improve the
accuracy of their launch vehicles and missiles."
About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill
hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS
staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS
members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our
national elected officials on space issues.
The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space
advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 23,000
members and 90 chapters actively promote the creation of a