Chang Zheng 2E
Launch vehicle Chang Zheng 2E
Launch site Xichang Space Centre, Sichuan, China
Date/Time 1992-12-21 11:21
Description Payload exploded shortly after lift-off
Cause Disputed
Payload Optus B2
Desired orbit Geostationary transfer orbit


Official version, according to a press release dated 12 May 1993:

1. On December 21, 1992 the Optus B2 satellite was launched on an LM-2E Launch Vehicle from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China. At approximately 48 seconds into the flight, the Optus B2 spacecraft exploded.

2. Based on analysis of the Launch Vehicle telemetry, inspection of the Launch Vehicle fairing debris and special tests, it was determined by CGWIC/CALT [China Great Wall Industry Corporation/ China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology] that there is no design or manufacturing or integration flaw in the Launch Vehicle or the fairing which caused the failure. Hughes accepts this conclusion.

3. Based on analysis of the Launch Vehicle telemetry, inspection of the spacecraft debris, and special tests, it was determined by Hughes that no design or manufacturing flaw can be found in the spacecraft which caused the failure. CGWIC/CALT accepts this conclusion.

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