JUL 8 1998
Question: What happened to the encryption device that was aboard the
failed INTELSAT launch in 1996?
Answer: The U.S. personnel present searched the site for two days
launch failure. Despite extremely hazardous conditions that made recovery
very difficult, the U.S. personnel believed that they recovered all
U.S. parts and components that survived the launch failure.
No identifiable parts or components associated with the Telemetry Tracking
and Control Encryption devices [TT&C], and the circuit board on which
was mounted, were recovered. We have been advised by Loral that the
devices were embedded on a tray mounted within the Command Processor
Box of the satellite. lf this is the case, it is highly unlikely that the
survived the crash because of the crash impact and high temperatures
produced by the burning rocket propellants. According to Loral, the
Command Processor Box was located adjacent to the propellant tanks and
U.S. personnel at the site recovered only 30% of the box.
The COMSEC circuit board consisted of a printed wiring board and forty
plus, off-the-shelf and semi-custom discrete small scale integrated circuit
chips. The COMSEC board is somewhat large and relatively fragile (about
6x10 inches), with interconnecting "tracks" on the board which interconnect
the many logic devices into the COMSEC algorithm. As such a whole
circuit board, its whole composite set of pieces, and the whole set of
chips need to be recovered to succeed in reengineering the design of the
device. If Loral's assessment of the physical implementation of the two
COMSEC devices aboard INTELSAT 708 and the extent of damage to the
command processor from the crash, impact and fire are correct, NSA and
DTSA believe that it is highly unlikely that these items could have been
recovered in sufficient detail to reverse engineer.
In the unlikely event that the Chinese were able to recover all the items
intact, it is important to note that the encryption board involved many
embedded devices. Any loss of the chips and associated encryption
algorithm would have have only minimal impact on national security because
the INTELSAT 708 satellite was uniquely keyed.