back to article Communist spy ring tried to steal Space Shuttle plans

A Chinese-American engineer was convicted by a federal court in California yesterday of conspiring to supply military technology to the People's Republic. Chi Mak, a 66-year-old naturalised US citizen born in Guangdong Province, China, was found guilty of conspiracy to violate export regulations and of failing to register as a …


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  1. Chris Pasiuk

    Ummm... Shuttle plans?? y'kiddin.

    Ok, the sub drive is pretty noteworthy, but shuttle plans??? We all will admit that our shuttles are nice pieces of hardware and have served not only the US but the whole planet quite well, but they're OLD! At the very least I would figure that the Chinese would want to modernize their plans for a shuttle substancially more than we have so that still will take some engineering. With that in mind, why don't they knock on their neighbor's door to the northwest. There is a perfectly good, although untested, Russian Buran shuttle just rusting on a lot someplace. Hell, for enough commodity goods in trade, they can have not only the Russian prototype but all the technical documents and research data to boot! Go fig.

  2. Dillon Pyron


    I hadn't ;thought of the Buran in years. I agree. A couple of million pairs of Nike knock offs and they get all the plans for not just the Buran but its planned full scale successor.

  3. Morely Dotes

    It's not so much the Shuttle it is the navigation controls, the flight systems software, and all the hundreds of thousands of "little things" that make up the parts the do most of the work. After all, the outside of the design is readily available to anyone with a decent telescope and a camera.

    The STS itself needs only a decent liquid-fueled launch vehicle (such as the Russian's heavy-lift boosters) to replace the ungainly external tank and SRBs, and it would become a viable and formidable contender in low-to-medium-orbital operations. Using the SRbs and the external tank, of course, it's just a disaster waiting to happen - again.

    So the Chinese aren't silly to want full design details of the Shuttle. Hopefully, they're smart enough to discard the silly bits - the parts substituted when Congress cut the funding for the launch vehicle.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The shuttles have the same components...

    that the new orion and ares systems are based on. Getting the plans for the saturn rockets and the shuttle would allow anyone with the right amount of money to put together an ares system. The shuttles also have some nice space tested hydrogen fuel cells too. Of course most documents could be obtained by hacking the nasa systems, these people opted for a different strategy. (which doesn't quite work, like in the case of the Rosenbergs) To be sure, I would just check wheter they've already sent some info over the internet before they got caught.

    ps: The germans already use the electric drive system on some of their submarines and on a few german made cruiseships. (and their technology is public)

  5. Robert Synnott


    The shuttle may be interesting in that it is an example of a hypersonic aircraft (of course, so is Buran).

  6. Richard Silver badge

    Good to see that the USA is still ten years behind...

    "Advances in permanent magnets?"

    How about Switched Reluctance drives, as developed at the University of Leeds?

    Higher efficiencies, no permanent magnets to fade over time, and much easier to construct and repair.

    Or could that be because it's not an American invention, so *obviously* it can't be any good?

    And if you want to see an electric ship - look for a cruise liner.

    There are quite a few French-built ships that use electric "pod" drives, running from gas turbines mounted in the smokestacks.

    Celebrity Cruises Millenium-class vessels use these, and they were built a while ago.

  7. PH

    Put on Disc??

    Doh! "put on disc in order to be taken to China"? Hadn't these guys heard of sending stuff via the internet? I've heard it's great if you want to avoid carrying data through an airport.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Put on Disc?

    Well, China censors the `net. So imagine what they do with email?

    "Aha! E-mail. From America. CENSORED!! Ha Haa." <--- In Chinese, of course.

    It'd never get through to them.

  9. David Dorey

    plea bargaining

    this is the most offensive thing.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    Buran was tested, it performed a single orbit unmanned test flight in 1988. The orbiter was unfinished, its computers and life support system were never completed.

    As for the spacecraft, one of the Buran vehicles was completely destroyed when part of the roof of the assembly hall at Baikonur collapsed. It's never been confirmed whether this was Buran itself, the unfinished second orbiter (Ptichka) or a mockup. The photo of a smashed orbiter at: clearly shows thermal tiles amongst the rubble, making it almost certain that it was one of the flyable machines.

    Buran *could* be revived, although its coming up to 20 years since the programme was in full swing, people have moved on, or died. Certainly the Energia booster should be tried again; it has more power than the Shuttle and relies on relatively safe liquid propellants.

    As for Buran - well who wouldn't want a spaceship that could make more than one landing attempt?

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