Category NASA in the World

The Indigenous Development of a Launcher

The idea of using a Scout design for India’s first SLV persisted ever since Bhabha and Sarabhai contemplated developing a launch vehicle. Several years of nego­tiation, and the familiarity Indian scientists and engineers gained with Scout during their tenure at Wallops Island and other NASA facilities, played a key role when India opted for a launch vehicle that was at once proven and reli­able and within India’s reach. Gopal Raj also claims that the Scout model was chosen because “Indians did not then have sufficient experience for ab initio design of a launch vehicle.”85 In 1968, aeronautical engineer Y. J. Rao along with electronics engineer Pramod Kale did a detailed study on developing a sat­ellite launch vehicle. The report was in favor of a vehicle configuration based on four-stage solid propellant rocket, modeled on Scout.86 Being all solid propel­lant, a technology easier than complex liquids, this seemed to be a possible route that Indians could attempt and succeed.

In his report Profile for the Decade Sarabhai explicitly spoke of the indigenous building of a satellite launch capability for “many applications of outer space in the fields of communications, meteorology and remote sensing.” He also gave the performance specifications of an all-solid four-stage satellite launch vehicle weighing 20 tons, and capable of launching a satellite weighing 30 kilograms in a 400-kilometer low-earth orbit. According to the report, the flight testing of sensitive instruments, electronics, and instrumentation would be done using sounding rockets. Sarabhai also talks about the follow on program that could launch 1,200-kilogram satellite into a circular geosynchronous orbit at 36,000 kilometers: This was “the type of capability which is needed to fully exploit, on our own, the vast potential arising from the practical applications of space sci­ence and technology.”87

Since SLV-3 was modeled after Scout, two views have dominated the his­toriography of its development: indigenous development and technological diffusion. The first viewpoint was expressed by scientists and engineers who orchestrated the SLV-3 program. The second viewpoint comes from Western policy analysts who have denied that there was any indigenous contribution and basically state that SLV-3 was built using the technological “blueprints” freely given by NASA, albeit without any documentary evidence.88 Granted the dan­gers of sharing sensitive launcher technology with India it is doubtful whether NASA gave Scout “blue prints” to the Indians. However, the declassified docu­ments at NARA and NASA and the oral histories clearly tip the balance toward what Gopal Raj asserted in his book Reach for the Stars on the history of India’s launch vehicles, that is, that SLV-3 was built using freely available unclassified reports and that the incremental development of sounding rockets paved the way for developing SLV-3 after a span of 15 years. Though SLV-3 resembled Scout in its morphology, the subsystems and the fuel assembly showed marked difference from Scout architecture. Though the negotiations on the sharing of Scout technology and critical components did not lead to any tangible results, published articles and government reports indicate the importation of several minor subsystems and components from the United States and Europe that were crucial for the development of SLV-3. With these subsystems the engineers and scientists at ISRO incrementally scaled up their sounding rockets to higher con­figurations. As indicated earlier, an agreement was signed with Sud Aviation of France to produce under license an advanced sounding rocket called Centaure. Working on Centaure helped in building indigenous Rohini sounding rockets, which were advanced further to carry heavier payloads.89 Many of the subsys­tems including the heat shield and guidance were tested using an RH-560 prior to incorporating it in the SLV-3 vehicle. During the development of SLV-3, vari­ous changes were incorporated and the version eventually launched was entirely different from the originally conceived one.

By 1971 the design phase of the launcher was completed and of six designs Sarabhai chose the third, hence the name SLV-3. It was a vehicle measuring 22 meters in length and weighing 17 tons and it could place a 30-kilogram satellite into near-earth orbit. The Indo-Pakistan war and the untimely death of Sarabhai in December 1971 was a setback to the launch vehicle program. A restructuring of space was initiated by Indira Gandhi and the ISRO was split off from the DAE. A separate Department of Space, directly under the Indian government, was cre­ated. Sathish Dhawan, a Caltech graduate and the director of Indian Institute of Science (IISC), situated in Bangalore, became the chairman of ISRO after M. G. K. Menon’s brief stint. To lead the SLV-3 project Sathish Dhawan and Brahma Prakash, director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Center, chose Abdul Kalam. Kalam was one of those who had been handpicked by Sarabhai to get trained at NASA in the earlier 1960s. He had visited the Langley Research Center, the Goddard Space Flight Center, and the NASA facility at Wallops Island, located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. His NASA training facilitated the first sounding rocket launch from TERLS in November 1963.90

On July 18, 1980, India placed its 35-kilogram Rohini (RS – D1) satellite in low-earth orbit, so becoming the sixth nation to accomplish this feat.91 Experience gained in building SLV-3 was built upon to produce heavier rockets. The Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) added two strap-on boosters to the existing SLV-3 configuration and could place a 150 kilogram satellite in low – earth orbit. It was followed by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), which can launch 1,600-kilogram satellite into 600-kilometer polar orbit (PSLV-C6 mission in May 2005) and about 1 ton into GTO (PSLV-C4 mission in 2002).

Just as the Pokhran-I nuclear test exhibited the visibility of India’s nuclear program in 1974, the successful launch of the Rohini satellite made the space program visible. The launch attracted global attention. The US State Department expressed grave concern. The tense situation was only exacerbated when the Defense Department of India, seeing the successful satellite launch, enrolled Abdul Kalam, the project manager of SLV-3, to rejuvenate their ailing mis­sile program. He joined DRDO where he orchestrated the Integrated Guided Missile Development Program in 1983, which led to the organized research and development of guided missiles for different strategic military needs. Chief among those missiles was Agni, an IRBM successfully tested in 1989, which was built using the experience gained on SLV-3 and could carry warheads weighing almost 1,000 kilograms to targets deep inside the People’s Republic of China.

The Crisis of the Early 1990s and the Inclusion of Russia

When President Reagan authorized the space station in 1984 it was to have been completed within a decade for $8 billion. During the next nine fiscal years (FY1985-1993) more than $10 billion had been spent without much to show for it. As of January 1995 only about 25,000 pounds of flight quality hardware had been fabricated, less than 3 percent of what was then projected to be a 925,000- pound facility. This was primarily because “the space station effort for nine years languished in the design phase.”59 The “dual-keel” design of October 1985 was followed by the “revised baseline configuration” of Space Station Freedom, and then a “restructured space station” that was unveiled in March 1991, and sched­uled to cost $30 billion.

This redesign did not satisfy Congress. Its threat to terminate the program was strongly opposed by the Bush administration, however. The year before 64 senators had insisted that the Space Station Freedom be sustained as “the cornerstone of our civil space policy and a symbol of our commitment to lead­ership and cooperation in the peaceful exploration of outer space.”60 British, German, French, and Italian ambassadors to Washington added their voices to the chorus that included President Bush himself and his secretary of state, James Baker. In July 1991 Baker wrote to the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations asking the Senate to support Space Station Freedom. As he put it, “The credibility of the United States as a Partner is based on its ability to make durable commitments. We will increasingly need to cooperate with these allies on common endeavors, whether in security, economic, environment, or science and technology areas. A failure by the United States to keep the Space Station Freedom on track,” Baker emphasized, “would call into question our reliability.”61

Space Station Freedom survived Congressional criticism in 1991 partly because its “durability” was indicative of the Bush administration’s determi­nation to maintain its leadership of the free world even as the Soviet Union imploded. It also sent a strong signal to Moscow just when the United States was reaching out to engage in closer relationships with its erstwhile rival. On July 31, 1991, President Bush and Premier Gorbachev signed the historic START I treaty in which they agreed to dramatically reduce their stockpiles of nuclear weapons. They also charged a number of joint working groups to negotiate cooperation in various space-related fields (see chapter 8), including an extended stay by an American astronaut on the Soviet Space Station Mir. In 1992 Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin extended plans for space cooperation beyond scientific support and an exchange of astronauts to include a rendezvous and docking mis­sion between the Shuttle and Mir.

Mir, which had been launched in 1986, was the “strangest, largest structure ever placed in Earth orbit,” “a dragonfly with wings outstretched,” “the best and the worst of Soviet technology and science,” a “cluttered mess” inside, “with obsolete equipment, floating bags of trash, the residue of dust, and a crust that grew more extensive with the passing years.”62 Mir was also a testing ground for long-duration human spaceflight. Cosmonauts typically spent four-six months, even more than a year on board.

Bill Clinton was inaugurated as the new president in January 1993. He and Vice President Al Gore were determined to continue the process of modern­izing and stabilizing Russia, of demilitarizing its high-technology sector, and of remodeling its institutions and industries along American lines. For Clinton and Gore space collaboration was embedded in a broader attempt to encourage Russia and the Newly Independent States (NIS) in their transition to democracy and market economics. It had the programmatic aim of capitalizing on Soviet space technology and know-how. However, it was also seen as an instrument to channel hard currency into a crumbling infrastructure, to retain elite scien­tists and engineers who might otherwise drift into the arms of rogue states, to encourage government and industry to adhere to the provisions of the Missile Technology Control Regime, and to isolate the opponents of reform by sustain­ing a high-prestige Soviet activity even as the communist system collapsed.63 In April Clinton met with Yeltsin in Vancouver and finalized an American aid package of $1.6 billion. He also invited Russia to participate in a renewed space station program. One of the most important by-products of this meeting was the so-called Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission (Victor Chernomyrdin was the Russian prime minister). It first met in September and then in December 1993 to work out details of bilateral agreements on space, energy, and technology (see chapter 8).

Clinton’s efforts did not win universal approval at home. But they played an important role in keeping the project alive in 1993. On entering the White House he told Dan Goldin (who was appointed NASA administrator in 1992 and remained in post throughout his mandate) that he was willing to support a space station. However, he asked the NASA administrator to come up with a leaner design. He was presented with three options. One was a modular concept that would use existing hardware. Another was a derivate of the Space Station Freedom. The third was a station that could be placed in orbit with a single Shuttle-derived launch vehicle. On June 17 President Clinton chose “a medium­sized modular space station” that used a “combination of Freedom hardware and flight-qualified space systems from other sources.” Goldin announced that Russian hardware alternatives had been incorporated into the plans where appro­priate.64 He said he needed $12.8 billion for the Space Station: Clinton capped its cost at $10.5 billion over the next five years.65

Congress voted on two expensive technological projects inherited from the Reagan years within days of each other in June. Both of them were intended to restore American prestige in the context of Cold War rivalry. One was the Superconducting Super Collider, on which $2 billion had been spent. Work had already begun on digging an oval, 54-mile underground tunnel near Dallas to hold the particle accelerator. The other was Space Station Freedom. Congress voted to kill the SSC; the Senate confirmed the decision a few months later.66 The Space Station survived by just one vote on a day that Dan Goldin later recalled was his worst ever at NASA.67 A year later, in summer 1994, the House of Representatives endorsed the station by 123 votes. Saving domestic jobs was one important reason for Congress’s support: NASA spread industrial contracts for the space station across 39 states, thereby spawning an estimated 75,000 jobs by 1992.68 Foreign participation and the diplomatic consequences of being seen as an unreliable partner undoubtedly also carried some weight.

With the Gore-Chernomyrdin commission getting into its stride, NASA drafted a new International Space Station Project. It had three phases and Russia was crucial to all of them. Phase 1, scheduled to last from 1994 to 1997, was a joint Shuttle/Mir program that would enable American astronauts to familiar­ize themselves with living and working in space for extended periods of time. The station core would be built in Phase 2, that would last the next three years and to which Russia would contribute several critical elements, including guid­ance, navigation, and control. In Phase 3, lasting from 2000 to 2004, the station would be completed with the addition of research modules from the four coun­tries that were building them. Russia would again provide key elements, like a habitation module (until the United States had built its own), and a crew return lifeboat for emergency evacuation. A comprehensive $400-million contract was signed between NASA and the Russian Space Agency to implement this plan.

These plans evoked criticism both at home and from the foreign partners. One of the major concerns was whether, given the state of the nation, Russia could be relied on to provide items that were critical to mission success. Others complained that the United States was using foreign aid to boost the space infra­structure of Russia and the NIS without being sure that they could deliver and at the expense of American jobs. Indeed NASA paid dearly for making an excep­tion to its policy of clean interfaces and no exchange of funds.

The evolution of the collaborative project with Russia has been described in chapter 8 , and will not be repeated here. The difficulties encountered with Zarya (the Functional Cargo Block—FGB) are illustrative. Zarya had to be put in space before anything else. With 16 fuel tanks holding more than 16 tons of propellant, and two solar arrays 35 feet long and 11 feet wide, this pressurized module was to provide orientation control, communications, and electrical pro­pulsion for the station until the Russian-provided crew quarters arrived. It was to be built in Russia under contract and owned by the United States. Schedules slipped. Costs increased. All the partners were infuriated when Moscow, who was supposed to cover all the costs related to Zarya, attempted to drop the mod­ule entirely and replace it with a Mir module. In April 1998 an internal NASA report noted

the anticipated one billion dollar cost savings to the U. S. to be accrued from Russian provision of a Functional Cargo Block. . . and an Assured Crew Return Vehicle capability was a faulty assumption as far back as 1994. The continu­ous economic situation in Russia has also negated most of the $1.5 billion in schedule savings to be achieved through their involvement.69

The Shuttle/Mir program was also a headache. The Russians demanded funds for goods and services that NASA believed had already been paid for, and charged “exorbitant” fees for cosmonaut time on American projects. When Goldin heard that the Russians were getting Mir ready to fly a space tourist, he exploded. “They always seem to have a little extra money around for Mir but not for the International Space Station.”70 In the event the original $400 mil­lion that NASA had offered for Shuttle/Mir and Phase 2 space station costs ballooned to double that figure as the Russians added ever more requests for financial support (see table 8.3).

The End of the Cold War and Beyond: Chandrayaan-1

With the end of Cold War and the demise of Soviet Union India had to restruc­ture its foreign policy to meet the emerging geopolitical realities. The Indian political elite began to formulate new recipes to begin closer relations with the United States. India’s economic liberalization in the early 1990s and the momen­tum sustained by successive governments created a conducive environment for a closer relationship between India and the United States. The Clinton administra­tion’s grand strategy of “engagement and enlargement” was favorably received by the Indian political leadership. However, despite these expanding links, the overall political relationship continued to be undermined by the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir and India’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.

Notwithstanding the controls on technology transfer India went alone or worked with others. It managed to keep a steady pace in developing launch vehi­cles and satellites for India’s domestic economic, commercial, and strategic needs. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV, was followed by the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), a technically upgraded version of PSLV. The architecture of the GSLV included a cryogenic stage that replaced the top two stages of the PSLV. Considering the pound per thrust, these were much more superior to ordinary liquid engines that used other propellant combinations.

The 1998 nuclear weapons tests by India attracted worldwide condemnation and onerous sanctions were imposed on India by the United States and many other developed countries. The United States prohibited trade with a long list of Indian entities and curtailed, for a short time, a broad array of cooperative space initiatives. The geopolitical situation that ensued after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 changed the situation again and catalyzed closer cooperation between India and the United States.

The Bush administration lifted the sanctions in September 2001 and a frame­work was established through the US-India High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG) for closer technological cooperation between the two countries. Critical civilian technologies that were once out of bounds—space and nuclear— became tools for improved bilateral relations. Kenneth I. Juster, undersecretary of commerce in June 2004, indicated the various steps that were being taken by the US government to foster closer relations with India. He noted that “since the lifting of the U. S. sanctions in September 2001, only a very small percent­age of our total trade with India is even subject to controls. The vast majority of dual-use items simply do not require a license for shipment to India.” During the fiscal year 2002 (October 2001 through September 2002), 423 license applica­tions for dual-use exports to India, worth around $27 million, were approved by the US government. This was 84 percent of all licensing decisions for India that year. In 2003 the United States approved 90 percent of all dual-use licens­ing applications for India. These actions were indicative of the new strategic partnership with India.92

In March 2005, a US-India Joint Working Group on Civil Space Cooperation was established. The inaugural meeting was held in Bangalore in June 2005. This forum was meant to provide a mechanism for enhanced cooperation in areas including joint satellite activities and launch, space exploration, increased interoperability among existing and future civil space-based positioning and navigation systems, and collaboration on various earth observation projects. At this time a memorandum of understanding was signed for a joint moon mis­sion.93 Called Chandrayaan-1 it was a continuation of the international efforts to study the lunar surface to understand origins and the evolution of the moon.94

The $83 million Chandrayaan-1 had a cluster of eleven instruments, five from the Indian side and six from foreign agencies: three payloads from the European Space Agency (ESA), two from NASA, and one from Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS). The experiments aimed to map and configure the chemical and mineralogical composition of the lunar surface using more enhanced instru­ments than previously attempted. The spacecraft was launched using India’s trusted workhorse, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)—C11. Its launch weight was 1,380 kilograms. The two instruments sent by NASA were the Miniature Synthetic Aperture Radar (MiniSAR) prototype developed by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and the US Naval Air Warfare Center to look for water/ice in the permanently shaded craters at the lunar poles, and the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3). M3 was an imaging spec­trometer developed at Brown University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and was designed to assess and map lunar mineral resources at high spatial and spec­tral resolutions.

November 14, 2008, was an historic day for the Indian space program. A Moon Impact Probe (MPI) with the Indian tricolor, representing the national flag painted on its surface, made contact with the lunar soil. The timing of the MPI was coordinated to coincide with the birthday of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India, who gave his passionate support to the growth of science and technology—especially nuclear and space sciences. It was a significant moment for NASA too to see the maturation of a space program that it helped to found with the scientific elite in India in the early 1960s.

European Reactions

Goldin did not want the existing partners in the space station to drain the momentum from his big-picture vision of a transformed space station that included Russia. He was advised that before moving ahead with Moscow “we needed to consult with our partners. He didn’t want to hear it. Those people didn’t last long in the agency. His plan had to go forward.”71 As was mentioned a moment ago, he and Clinton adopted a design that included a major Russian contribution in June 1993. Three months later in September 1993 the ESA member states were officially informed of the inclusion of Russia in the space station, now formally referred to simply as the ISS.

European space actors, like their American counterparts, had already moved quickly to build collaborative programs with the Russian Federation.72 Early in 1993 they signed an agreement with the Russian Space Agency to develop a European Robotic Arm and a Data Management System for the Russian

Service Module. In preparation for their Columbus contribution to the space station they also arranged for European astronauts to live and work on Mir (Euromir 94 and Euromir 95). These missions would prepare their corps for living on the space station, enable them to validate items of Columbus, and provide flight opportunities for the user community before the space station itself was operational.73

Lynn Cline was brought in by NASA to negotiate an agreement with Russia once it had accepted an invitation to join the station. The original approach was minimalist, involving as few changes as possible to the previous documents defined with the original partners. Cline explains why that did not work:

It became clear rather quickly that Russia wanted none of that, that they had very strong opinions about this partnership and what capability they were bringing to the table, and therefore, their desires on what their role should be.

So once we crossed that threshold of, “It’s not going to be minimal. There are going to be significant changes to this agreement,” what happened was, Japan pretty much didn’t want to change anything, Canada was rather flexible, and Europe came in with a whole new list of non-negotiable demands of changes that they wanted to have in the agreements as long as we’re revising them, or they’d walk away from the partnership. So when I went through these negotia­tions, I had as hard a time working out the terms and conditions with Europe as I did with Russia.

Still, she insists it went relatively smoothly since in the process

everybody recognized that Russia was a significant player, that they were bringing substantial capabilities with the launch capability, the cargo resup­ply capability, power capabilities, the main core of the Station. So there was a recognition that they had a key role. They had a right to certain demands, but also the original partners wanted us to truly bring them into the fold and have us all work multilaterally as a single integrated partnership.74

All the existing partners officially endorsed the proposal in May 1994. The programmatic advantages were evident. Russia would contribute its extensive experience of long-duration human spaceflight, and valuable hardware: the heavy-lift Proton launcher and the Soyuz capsule that could be temporarily attached to the ISS during construction. There was a “peace dividend” too. The German chancellor said he was “convinced that this international coop­eration will make a major contribution to lasting cooperation world wide and will be a beacon of hope and trust for men and women on every continent.”75 This sentiment was endorsed by the ministers of the member states meeting in Toulouse in October 1995. Here the ministers agreed to fund what was now called a Columbus Orbital Facility (COF), which had been reduced to a third of its original size, with Germany bearing 41 percent of the costs.76 France agreed to pay 27 percent of the costs of an automated transfer vehicle (ATV). The first of several ATVs called Jules Verne would be launched by Ariane, controlled from Toulouse, and would resupply the ISS with propellant, water, air, and payload experiments every 18 months.77 Its pressurized cargo bay was based on a “space barge” developed in Italy and flown on the Shuttle, and that carried equipment to and from the station. The ministerial meeting also agreed to fund the design studies of a crew transport vehicle (CTV), a “lifeboat” that could be used to rescue astronauts from the ISS.

In addition to negotiating an additional MoU between NASA and the Russian Space Agency, a new intergovernmental agreement (IGA) was needed to cover the arrival of the new partner. Barter agreements, “equivalent” contri­butions in kind that required no exchange of funds, were also concluded. ESA would provide the United States with additional hardware for the ISS while its COF would be launched free of charge on the Shuttle, rather than on Ariane. ESA and the Japanese space agency agreed to trade a – 80° laboratory freezer for the ISS for 12 international standard payload racks. ESA persuaded Russia to provide certain services in return for supplying the European robotic arm and the data management system for the Russian segment of the ISS.

The new IGA signed in Washington, DC on January 29, 1998, was based on the first version signed almost a decade before. Thus as before Article 1 of the IGA affirms that “[t]he object of this Agreement is to establish a long-standing international cooperative framework among the Partners, on the basis of genu­ine partnership, for detailed design, development, operation, and utilization of a permanently inhabited civil international Space Station for peaceful purposes, in accordance with international law.”78 “Genuine partnership” was however parsed to reflect the criticality of the different contributions to overall mission perfor­mance. The United States and Russia would produce the elements that served as the “foundation” for the ISS, those provided by the Europeans and Japan would “significantly enhance” its capabilities, while Canada’s contribution would be “an essential part” of the system. At the insistence of Russia, the management of the station was placed on a more multilateral basis than in the 1988 agreements. The United States was given the “lead role” for “overall program management and coordination,” with the “participation” of the other partners.79 The other partners were responsible for the management of their own hardware and utili­zation programs. They would also participate in all important reviews.

The change in the rules on criminal jurisdiction is also interesting.80 In the 1988 agreements the United States was entitled to exercise jurisdiction regard­ing accusations of misconduct by non-American personnel anywhere in the ISS—even if they were in or on non-American elements—if that misconduct was deemed to affect the safety of the whole station. In the 1998 agreements each partner state has jurisdiction over the behavior of its nationals in the first instance, though exceptions apply. It was also agreed that both the United States and the Russian Federation could use their elements for national security pur­poses if they so wished, but that they could not use the European elements with­out the consent of the European partner.

Throughout its history the space station has combined NASA’s determina­tion to sustain its post-Apollo momentum with a multilayered project origi­nally announced in 1969, combined with Congress’s willingness to support jobs in the aerospace industry, and with the foreign policy agendas of succes­sive administrations. The fact that it has had strong presidential support at key moments was also crucial, particularly for foreign participants. The partners in this behemoth, once persuaded that the United States was serious about a space station, had very similar domestic aims. Participation in the project would not only release more government funding for space, but it would also provide access to American technology, enhance the national technological base, and stimu­late the aerospace and related industries. It also had foreign policy components: notwithstanding their different attitudes to the United States, the 14 European ministers who met in Toulouse in 1995 saw the space station as the “greatest cooperative venture of all time, with significant scientific, technological and political implications.”81

The form that collaboration took evolved dramatically once Russia came on board. This was partly because NASA had to constantly cut back its ambitions for the station to satisfy a Congress that was increasingly impatient with rising costs and slipping schedules. It was also because Russia seemed to offer one way out of this perpetual crisis by bringing pertinent hardware and experience to the project, which no other nation had to offer, with the added advantage of pro­viding a “peace dividend” for the White House. The architecture of the station allowed for different ways of organizing collaboration with different partners depending on what they brought to the table. By contributing core elements, and by turning its institutional and financial disorder to its advantage, Russia forced NASA to make an exception to its time-hallowed principles of no-ex­change of funds and clean technological interfaces. Once the breach was made all could benefit, and all of the partners now contribute elements that are critical to mission success.82

The ISS transformed the way that NASA collaborated with its partners. The anxieties over Russian reliability and some resentment about the way in which dollars were spent by Moscow will surely make the agency and Congress extremely reluctant to give others a core role in a mission again without cast-iron guarantees that they can pay for what they do and that they can deliver. Nor is it certain that the much-vaunted foreign policy benefits that Clinton and Gore sought were achieved because Russia was integrated into the space station.83 Including Russia in the ISS was part and parcel of a wide-ranging initiative to transform the Soviet empire into a democratic, market economy, and might have played little or no role in facilitating the transition. Indeed, the ISS may not be a harbinger of a fundamental revision in NASA’s and Congress’s approach to international cooperation at all, as Pedersen hoped, but a unique experiment never to be repeated.


Science as an organized national activity gained an important place in Indian national life only after independence. The period from 1962 to 1972 was cru­cial for developing an institutional and technological base for space research in India. The growth and establishment of a domestic space program, and collab­orative relationships with organizations as well as scientists and technologists in foreign lands, was due to the active interest shown by India in the field of space sciences. NASA helped the scientific elite to create bases for sounding rockets and develop institutions along the way to shaping a space program that was geared toward the development needs of the country as defined by Sarabhai. As far as technological collaboration was concerned, US assistance during the early stages of India’s rocket program was limited to the donation of sounding rockets and the loaning of launchers; it never shared details of producing the sounding rockets locally. Homi Bhabha’s request for more advanced rockets in 1965 for testing and possible technology transfer were rejected. The attempt to acquire Scout technology after India had lost a border war with China in 1962 and the Chinese nuclear test of 1964 was rebuffed: the risk of further destabiliz­ing the region by supporting a rocket/missile program trumped NASA’s deter­mination to assist India. Other major prestige projects (such as the SITE—see next chapter) were embarked on to highlight the country’s modernizing urge without helping to rearm it, and to realign Delhi with Washington. US denial of advanced launcher technology led India to combine its own resources with help from other countries, mainly France, Germany, and the Soviet Union, to begin a launch vehicle program. By the time of Sarabhai’s death in 1971, his Profile for the Decade was accepted by the government of India, and his vision was carried further. Within a decade, incremental progress was made toward meteorologi­cal, remote sensing, and communication satellites, which were directed toward India’s socioeconomic needs. These were later launched on an indigenous Indian rocket that was developed along with a national missile program. By the end of the twentieth century Vikram Sarabhai’s famous quote “there is no ambiguity of purpose” had been fulfilled in a full-spectrum national space program.

The Impact of the International Traffic in. Arms Regulations

The export of space “technology” has always been constrained by the fear that it may compromise American national security or the economic competitiveness of US firms.1 As we saw in chapter 3, National Security Advisory Memorandum NSAM294 (on ballistic missile/rocket technology) and NSAM338 (on comsats) issued by the Johnson administration in the 1960s were intended to impede undesirable knowledge flows. Fears of technology transfer, and the need to con­trol it, hovered over the debate on European participation in the post-Apollo pro­gram, and on the sharing of rocket technology with Japan and India, described elsewhere in this book (chapters 4-6, 10, 12).

Historically NASA has favored a fairly generous policy on technology trans­fer. The key pillars of the policies put in place by Frutkin in the early 1960s—no exchange of funds, and clean interfaces—shaped the structure of international collaboration and deftly helped NASA kick-start programs all over the world without undermining national security or economic competitiveness. However, as other friendly space-faring nations matured, and as their potential contribu­tions to NASA’s program increased, the agency had to navigate between the pressure to deepen scientific and technological collaboration, and the objections of those who wanted more formal restrictions on the sharing of hardware and knowledge. The conflicts emerged with particular intensity in the early 1970s with Western Europe, and with Japan and India in the 1980s. By the 1990s NASA realized that it would have to formalize and streamline its export control system to cope with new international and domestic realities, notably a major scare over the People’s Republic of China’s appropriation of American weap­ons and space-related technologies. The more stringent implementation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) after 2000, and the onerous fines, including imprisonment, imposed for their violation caused some concern to people both in the United States and abroad. Preserving national security across a vast domain of dual-use technologies against the pressure from research and business who favor putting high walls around well-defined sensitive areas involves complex trade-offs and is a topic of ongoing interagency consultation.

Two arms of the executive branch, the Department of Commerce and the State Department, deal with most space-related export controls.2 The former administers the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which pertain to “dual-use” commodities, software, and technology, that is, items that have pre­dominantly commercial uses but that can also have military applications and that are to be found on the Commerce Control List (CCL). The Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) in the State Department (the Office of Munitions Control in the early 1970s) administers the ITAR. The ITAR are intended to curb the proliferation of sensitive technologies and weapons of mass destruction by preventing the circulation of defense articles and defense services. Defense articles are listed on the US Munitions List (USML).

The USML was described in a brief by Alvin Bass (of NASA’s Office of General Counsel) as “a broad enumeration of articles which are considered as having direct or indirect military potential or applicability.” When Bass was writing, in 1970, he noted that the list covered almost everything that NASA was concerned with, including

[s]pacecraft, including manned and unmanned active and passive satellites, spacecraft engines, power supplies, energy sources, launching, arresting and recovery equipment, inertial guidance systems, and all components, parts and accessories of the above-mentioned items. Other categories [Bass went on] include propellants, missile and space vehicle powerplants, launch vehicles, rockets, control devices for any of the above, [various items] designed or modi­fied for spacecraft or space flight, pressure suits, protective garments. . . space vehicle guidance, control and stabilization systems, and the list continues.3

Bass did not enumerate the defense services that could only be supplied if per­mission was granted. Today defense services are defined as including “the fur­nishing of assistance (including training) to foreign persons, whether in the United States or abroad in the design, development, engineering, manufacture, production, assembly, testing, repair, maintenance, modification, operation, demilitarization, destruction, processing or use of defense articles.”4

The term “export” is misleading (as is the phrase “technology transfer”) if one wants to understand the scope of the control regime. These terms create the impression that only commodities are regulated. But authorization is also required (in a Technical Assistance Agreement, or TAA) to export technical data (as distinct from “purely theoretical scientific data,” which was treated more leniently). The meaning of the term “export” is correspondingly expanded. To quote Finarelli and Alexander, under ITAR, to export was defined in 2008 as “[a]ny oral, written, electronic, or visual disclosure, shipment, transfer, or trans­mission outside the United States to anyone, including a U. S. citizen, of any commodity, technology (information, technical data, or assistance), or software, or codes.”5 A second clause restricts even the “intent” to make exports of this kind to “a non-U. S.-entity or person wherever located,” that is, in the United States or abroad, and a third specifically controls any transfer to a foreign embassy or affiliate. Thus when US entities seek to transfer US technology abroad, they are triggering a process that manages not simply the “export” of commodities or “articles,” but that regulates the flow of related data and knowledge, where knowledge is inscribed in many different forms, from the statement and the image to the hardware, and transmission occurs through many different chan­nels, from the spoken word and the visual display, to shipment.

The Arms Export Control Act of 1976, often wrongfully attributed as being the genesis of ITAR, confirmed that the range of space technologies designated by Bass were indeed to be treated as defense articles, and that data exchanged regarding them was a defense service. That granted, it could always be argued by a US entity that specific items did not fall under the ITAR, and should be treated as dual-use technologies to be regulated by the less-restrictive EAR. In the case of the EAR, but not the ITAR, the decision over whether or not to grant an export license takes account of commercial factors, and above all whether or not the client could acquire the item from a foreign source if an American company did not provide it. In practice it is often found that many applications under the EAR do not need an export license, though the item must be evaluated before the determination is made and justifying documentation must be provided.

The reach of the legislation that embodies the control regime is negotiated and renegotiated between arms of the administration that have different and some­times conflicting mission-objectives. They take account of input and pressure from various stakeholders in space, notably firms interested in expanding their markets, who seek to have their items regulated by the more relaxed EAR on the grounds that they are dual-use commodities, not essentially instruments of war, but also scientists and engineers involved in international projects. Social actors who have to implement the legislation can face stiff penalties—fines, imprison­ment, loss of further government contracts—for not respecting its requirements and, in case of ambiguity, spontaneously retreat to a conservative interpretation of the law to protect themselves.

Satellite Broadcasting in. Rural India: The SITE Project

The Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) was a major NASA applications satellite program for educational TV in India. The project involved the use of NASA’s Application Technology Satellite-6 (ATS-6) to broadcast edu­cational programs directly to television sets placed in different rural clusters. The agreement for SITE was signed between NASA and India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) in 1969. The project was executed from August 1975 to July 1976 and received a great deal of media attention in the country. It was touted as a massive experiment in social engineering and was hailed by some enthusiasts as the world’s largest sociological experiment.1 The British science writer Arthur C. Clarke called it the “greatest communications experiment in history.”2

Praise for the intangible benefits of the SITE project was perhaps best sum­marized in a report to the United Nations Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space:

SITE can be considered a pace-setter and fore-runner of satellite television systems particularly of those meant for development. It is an example of technological and psychological emancipation of the developing world. Its most important element was the commitment and dedication of all people and organizations involved to the one overriding goal of rural development in India. From this follows the crucial role of motivation and cooperation for the success of complex and challenging tasks.3

The official Indian reaction to SITE was very positive. The immediate vis­ible results of the broadcast, as cited by project evaluators in the rural clusters, was improved school attendance, increased concern for proper nutrition, and an awareness of sanitation and personal hygiene as methods of disease preven­tion. One of the unanticipated benefits of the program was the electrification of numerous villages, a prerequisite for television reception.4 For the Indians, the visual demonstration galvanized public opinion in favor of a space program focused on socioeconomic needs. It helped the country gain competence in using satellites for mass communication and was a systems management les­son for managing Indian National Satellite (INSAT) systems.5 SITE played an important role in the development of mass media in India, and its legacy can

Satellite Broadcasting in. Rural India: The SITE Project

Figure 12.1 Artist’s conception of ATS relay. Source: NASA.

still be seen today when one watches educational programs sponsored by the University Grants Commission (UGC), which are broadcast on national televi­sion channels on a regular basis. ISRO’s recent launching of EDUSAT, a satellite designed exclusively for educational needs, can be traced back to SITE.6

NASA, ITAR, and the Post-Apollo Negotiations

The extensive, blow-by-blow account of the in-house debates over European participation in the post-Apollo program in 1970-1971 (chapters 4-6) demon­strated the shifting perceptions of where the boundary lay between knowledge sharing and knowledge denial. So did the simultaneous debate over upgrad­ing Thor-Delta technology acquired by Japan (chapter 10). Indeed the Nixon administration of the early 1970s is noteworthy for the determination of White House staffers Peter Flanigan and Tom Whitehead, with the support of science adviser Ed David, to rein in what they saw as NASA’s profligate attitude to the sharing of knowledge that might undermine national military and/or economic security. Their concerns were reinforced by Bass’s brief mentioned earlier, which was forwarded to them amid negotiations over European participation in post – Apollo. The legal counselor argued that although the technologies of interest to NASA’s program were largely regulated via the Munitions Controls List, exports of data or articles by government agencies, including NASA, were “specifically exempt from the provisions of the Mutual Security Act and the ITAR.” What is more that exemption was extended by the ITAR when the export was in “fur­therance of a contract with an agency of the U. S. Government or a contract between an agency of the U. S. Government and foreign persons.”6 In short, according to Bass, in 1970 NASA and its contractors (like the Jet Propulsion

Laboratory in Pasadena) did not need to seek a license or other written authori­zation from the Department of State to export items on the MCL.

Flanigan and Whitehead were appalled and demanded that Ed David “develop a policy for the transfer of technology developed by NASA.”7 Bass’s report con­firmed for Flanigan that, as things stood, “NASA had no policy on keeping pro­prietary technical information developed by it available only to U. S. citizens.” NASA’s new administrator Jim Fletcher agreed that a new policy was needed to stop NASA “both by its charter and its history” from continuing “to make all its technological developments available nationally and internationally.”8 In the debate that ensued over the next six months Europe found its participation in the post-Apollo program reduced to building a module that fitted in the shuttle’s cargo bay, and that restricted transnational knowledge flows to the minimum required for mission success. Japan’s access to Thor-Delta technology was also severely restricted.

The Origins of the Project

Arthur C. Clarke first conceptualized the idea of a geosynchronous satellite for broadcasting purposes in a trade journal in 1945.7 By the early 1960s com­munication satellites such as Echo, Telstar, Relay, and Syncom were developed to transmit communications to different parts of the world.8 The technologi­cal, cultural, and political possibilities offered by these satellites prompted the US military and private corporations, notably AT&T and Hughes Aircraft Corporation, to develop communications satellites to expand America’s global outreach. They aimed to create a “single global system” benefiting the entire world but also serving the Cold War interest of the United States.9

The idea of a broadcast satellite for India appears in the middle of these devel­opments in the mid-1960s (figure 12.1). The proposal gained momentum soon after the Chinese nuclear test in October 1964. This forced a major revision in US policy toward India, whose policy of nonalignment and hostility to US-ally Pakistan had led Washington until then to keep Delhi at arm’s length.

Communist China’s nuclear ambitions and its growing popularity among Afro – Asian countries in the 1950s and 1960s exerted constant pressure on the United States to seek alternatives that could minimize the Chinese influence in the Asian region. Citing India as the world’s largest democracy, US officials hoped to estab­lish that nation as a showcase for American-backed development in the “third – world” and as an Asian counterweight to the communist model in the People’s Republic of China, PRC.10 In general, there was a pervasive notion that India was a great laboratory that would demonstrate that liberalism and democracy were the way to go, rather than the Chinese model. During 1961, while analysts at the CIA and the other intelligence agencies tried to determine exactly what progress China had made toward an atomic capability, other arms of the administration began to explore the implications of such an eventuality, and what the United States might do to lessen or eliminate its impact. Suggestions from officials in the State Department that the United States should assist India to “beat Communist China to the punch” by helping their nuclear weapons program were immediately vetoed by Secretary of State Dean Rusk who objected that such a step “would start us down a jungle path from which I see no exit.”11 Soon after the Chinese test the United States began to look for alternative programs that it might undertake jointly with India in the fields of science and technology, which could offset the damage done by the Chinese detonation to Indian prestige and self-confidence.

In January 1965 Jerome B. Wiesner, former science advisor to President Kennedy and the dean of science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Dr. J. Wallace Joyce, International Scientific and Technological Affairs, Department of State, agreed to visit India at the request of US ambassador Chester Bowles. A list of possible proposals was formulated in consultation with the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and NASA. They grouped all possibilities under three major headings: nuclear energy, space, and general science.12 These moves dovetailed with initiatives being taken by Bhabha and Sarabhai in their periodic visits to Washington. Bhabha explained that India needed to make some dramatic peaceful achievement to counteract the “noise” (his term) of communist China’s nuclear explosion. He noted that the Chinese were greatly indebted to the USSR for help on their weapon program adding that if India went all out, it could produce a nuclear device in eighteen months; with a US blueprint it could do the job in six months.13 Bhabha expressed the view that “if India was to maintain its prestige relative to the Chinese in the field of science and technology two things should be done: (1) ways must be found for it to demonstrate to other Asian and African countries India’s scientific achievements, (2) a greater awareness of Chinese indebt­edness to the Soviet Union for its nuclear achievements must be created.”14

Bhabha also met with NASA administrator James E. Webb, deputy admin­istrator Hugh Dryden, and with Arnold Frutkin. During the meeting Bhabha swiftly moved away from the idea of a peaceful nuclear explosion (PNE) to dis­cussing the possibility of India developing a satellite orbiting capability. Bhabha stated that if India undertook such a project, it would wish to launch from India and do the largest part of the job itself. Hearing this from Bhabha, NASA pre­sented estimates of cost, technology, and time requirements, all of which sug­gested that this was not a project well adapted to achieve Indian objectives. NASA also pointed out that by the time India orbited a satellite, several other nations would likely have progressed so far in this field that India’s accomplishment

would appear relatively insignificant. Webb’s line of thought differed with that of Bhabha; he said that a major effort should be made to select projects that would have a meaningful impact on Indian technology and industrial growth, not spectaculars that would drain resources to no useful social effect.

Sarabhai also made a visit to the United States seeking scientific and technologi­cal aid in the area of space. As stressed in chapter 11, Sarabhai viewed science and technology predominantly as tools for socioeconomic development. He believed that a poor nation like India could only close the gap with the rich through self­reliance and self-sufficiency: “[W]e do not wish to acquire black boxes from abroad but to grow a national capability.”15 He saw high technologies such as nuclear power and space as crucial to leapfrog into modernity. Sarabhai added that there was some pressure within India to build a nuclear bomb, and to deflect this pressure India needed to do something else to demonstrate an advanced scientific capability.16

It was in this context that NASA administrator James Webb proposed a satel­lite broadcasting initiative to U. Alexis Johnson in May 1966. It was not only a technical experiment in direct broadcasting, but could also serve as a pilot project in the social impact of direct broadcasting and, through suitable program con­tent, it would contribute to the attack upon the food and population problems of India. In the memo Webb stated that the United States would build and position a synchronous satellite near India in such a way that broadcasts from it could be received over the major part of the Indian subcontinent. He went on to point out that India, for its part, could use its nascent electronics capability, now focused at the atomic energy center at Trombay, to develop improved television receivers. These could be established in perhaps a thousand rural population centers. Webb waxed lyrical about the multiple advantages the program would have for the country. Indians could learn new technological and management approaches to education and to the uses of informational media to weld together a nation-state. The government could invest in a modern electronics industry that would “mate­rially raise India’s technological base and contribute thereby to the development of other, similar industries.” Resources would be redirected from nuclear weap­ons to more socially valuable endeavors. The United States for its part “would learn more about the Indians and their most pressing problems,” and improve its global “posture” “through a generous demonstration of its willingness to share the benefit of advanced space technology with underdeveloped nations.”17

Webb’s educational satellite resonated with a scheme that Sarabhai had been playing with for some time. He began to visualize a national satellite program to provide a better way of life to the inhabitants of India’s 63,000 villages. He hoped that, thanks to the research and development activities of the space pro­gram, television would be available to 80 percent of India’s population within ten years. This project was of special significance because by providing enter­tainment and instruction of high quality, it would be possible to bring about a qualitative improvement in the richness of rural life.18

Revising the Regulatory Regime in the 1990s

In the early 1990s NASA took an important step toward formalizing and streamlining its implementation of the export control regulations affecting space collaboration in all its aspects. Two factors converged to encourage these insti­tutional changes. First, the agency and its contractors were under increasing criticism for being lax in enforcing the statutory regulations controlling exports to foreign partners—for example, they allowed Norway to acquire sounding rockets, which fell squarely under the ITAR, through the less stringent “dual­use” provisions of the EAR that regulate the export of items on the Commerce Control List. Second, new policies were needed to deal with the inclusion of the one-time space rival and communist menace, the ex-Soviet Union, as a signifi­cant partner in the International Space Station (see chapter 13). In response to this situation, in 1994/95 NASA replaced its previously fragmented program with a single export control office that handled authorizations required by both ITAR and EAR, to ensure that the different regimes were implemented coher­ently. Second, an interagency Space Technology Working Group agreed that the civil Space Station should be moved from the USML to the CCL, along with commercial communications satellites. Until that time all spacecraft except for comsats were on the USML (but see later). Henceforth (and still today), the ISS could also benefit from the greater clarity, transparency, and flexibility of the EAR over the ITAR.9 This has undoubtedly contributed to its success as a site for international collaboration.

In 1996 President Clinton ordered that the export controls over commercial comsats be placed on the CCL. This settled an ongoing dispute between the Commerce and State Departments that had simmered for almost a decade. In the late 1980s President Reagan had signed a deal with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorizing nine launches of American-built comsats on Chinese rockets. The Tiananmen Square sanctions law passed in 1990 (P. L. 101-246) suspended this policy for a few years. However the pressure to secure markets for US manufacturers led to a relaxation in 1992, when the State Department issued a directive transferring some comsats from the USML to the CCL, and so to the jurisdiction of Commerce. This transfer was completed by Clinton’s order in 1996.10 The president was keen to move from a policy of confrontation with the PRC to one of diplomatic and commercial engagement. The sale of supercomputers to China was authorized. Satellite technology for telecommu­nications was removed from the USML, and from the jurisdiction of the State Department, and placed on the Commerce Department’s more lenient CCL. And in summer 1997, at the first US-China summit meeting since the crushed protest in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the president hoped to conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement that would enable American nuclear reactor companies to compete for the Chinese market.

Many in Congress were appalled by this new openness to the PRC. The House’s concern was focused on allegations that two American satellite companies, Hughes Space and Communications International, Inc., and Space Systems/Loral, had illegally transferred sensitive missile technology to the PRC. This had occurred during investigations into three unsuccessful launches of their telecommunications satellites for civilian clients on Chinese Long March rockets. The possibility of such leakage led to the passage of the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1999.11 This imposed new restrictions on international exchange before the Justice Department had finished its inquiry against Hughes and Loral.

Fear of irresponsible sharing of missile-related technology also led Congress to establish a bipartisan committee chaired by Representative Chris Cox (R-California) to investigate the matter. The political climate was charged: one observer has remarked that “[a] number of Republican leaders went to the floor of the House and Senate and accused the President of treason for allegedly facilitating this transfer of information.”12 The bipartisan committee’s classified report was submitted to the president on January 3, 1999; a declassified version was released on May 25, 1999 (the Cox Report).13 The account that follows deals first with the specific charges against Hughes and Loral, and then with the more general charges made in the Cox Report.