Intelsat 708

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Intelsat 708
The Long March 3B rocket carrying the Intelsat 708 satellite begins to deviate from its course immediately after launch in these images from the report of the Cox Commission, which investigated the disaster for the US Congress
Mission type Communications
Operator Intelsat
Mission duration 15 years
Failed to orbit
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft type Intelsat VII-A
Bus LS-1300
Manufacturer Space Systems/Loral
Launch mass 4,180 kilograms (9,220 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date 14 February 1996, 19:01 (1996-02-14UTC19:01Z) UTC
Rocket Chang Zheng 3B
Launch site Xichang LC-2
Contractor China Great Wall
Orbital parameters
Reference system Geocentric
Regime Geostationary
Epoch Planned
Band 26 C-band
14 Ku-band

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 15 February 1996, causing a large number of fatalities near the Xichang Satellite Launch Center near Xichang, People's Republic of China, prompting political controversy around the world.

Launch failure

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 (probably Mayelin village[1]) in an enormous explosion, destroying much of it and killing an unknown number of inhabitants.[2]

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. However, outside estimates suggest that anywhere between 200 to 500 people might have been killed in the crash; "hundreds" of people had gathered to witness the launch.[3] Reporters were detained at the center for 5 hours, and when they were being taken away from the site they reported that most buildings had sustained serious damage or had been flattened completely.[3] Some eyewitnesses were noted as having seen many flatbed trucks, loaded with what could have been human remains, being taken to the local hospital and dozens of ambulances.[3] Later analysis by the Space Review,[1] however, indicates that the total population of the village hit was under 1000, with most if not all the population evacuated before launch, making it "very unlikely" that there were hundreds of deaths.

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 illegal technology transfer to China. 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. Boeing Co. and Hughes Electronics Corp. agreed to a $32 million settlement.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lan, Chen. "Mist around the CZ-3B disaster, part 2". The Space Review. Retrieved 27 August 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Select Committee of the United States House of Representatives (3 January 1999). "Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral". U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China. Retrieved 23 May 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Lan, Chen. "Mist around the CZ-3B disaster, part 1". The Space Review. Retrieved 18 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Select Committee of the United States House of Representatives (1999-01-03). "Satellite Launches in the PRC: Loral". U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People's Republic of China. Retrieved 2007-06-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Congressional report discussing Intelsat 708 launch failure and possible technology transfer)
  • "2002 State Dept. Charge Letter to Hughes". Softwar. 2005. Retrieved 2007-06-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Documents on Intelsat 708 and export controls, including State Department letter charging two companies with export law violations)
  • Anatoly Zak (February 2013). "Disaster at Xichang". Air & Space Magazine. Retrieved 2013-04-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Article on the crash of a rocket carrying a commercial payload on February 15, 1996)
  • "Cox report _ a complete fabrication". China Daily. 1999-07-16. Archived from the original on 2007-03-28. Retrieved 2007-06-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (Chinese government report disputing conclusions of U.S. Congressional report)
  • Video of launch, impact and view of destruction of town by resulting explosion.

External links