Category NASA in the World

Two Disputes over Geostationary Satellite Launches

In 1967 Japan’s National Space Development Center strongly recommended that the country launch its own comsat by 1970 to ensure that it had some weight in shaping the negotiations on the definitive arrangements for Intelsat that got under way in 1969 and that lasted more than two years (see chapter 5). The alternative, as one document put it, was to have Japanese skies “dominated by the U. S. which as a member of INTELSAT (International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium) now has practical control of space communications networks.”44 This concern doubtless catalyzed U. Alexis Johnson’s determined effort to accelerate American technological help for Japan’s domestic launcher in 1969. In the event, the slow progress made in the negotiations to upgrade the N-1 led the Japanese authorities to seek alternative routes to the geostationary orbit for both a meteorological satellite and two communications satellites.

NASA was willing to consider two options: it could provide a reimbursable launch on a Delta 2914 from American soil or it could sell a Delta 2914 to Japan for launch there. The latter option was soon shelved. The agency was concerned about the transfer of launch operations know-how to a foreign country. A National Security directive (NSDM187 ofAugust 30, 1972) specifically restricted the transfer of launch vehicles to other counties for communications satellites.45 Finally the high cost of launching a Delta 2914 from the Japanese site at Tangeashima persuaded the authorities in Tokyo that it was preferable to request reimbursable launches from the United States for their first generation of geosynchronous satellites.

A reimbursement agreement between NASA and NASDA was signed in 1972 for three satellites. Himawari (sunflower, 325 kilograms) was a meteorologi­cal satellite built by Hughes Aircraft for Japan’s NEC. Sakura (cherry flower, 350 kilograms) was a telecommunications satellite built by Ford Aerospace for MELCO. Yuri (lily, 350 kilograms) was a broadcast satellite built by the Space Division of General Electric for Toshiba. They were launched in quick succession between July 1977 and April 1978 from the Kennedy Space Center, though not before a major misunderstanding between the two partners had been resolved.

At the core of the dispute was the question of responsibility for the insertion of the satellite in the geostationary orbit. Early in 1974 NASA decided to offer geo­stationary orbit insertion services only for US government spacecraft launched on a reimbursable basis.46 For other clients, NASA’s responsibility extended only to the separation of the satellite from the launch vehicle at the point of insertion into geostationary transfer orbit. At that point an apogee kick motor integrated into the satellite, and provided along with it by the client, would move the satel­lite to its final desired position. Soon thereafter it emerged that the Japanese, for their part, were under the impression that the reimbursable launch contract with NASA included placing the satellite at the desired location on the geosta­tionary orbit. On learning otherwise they took NASA’s advice and asked for bids from five American firms that had provided software support and insertion into the geostationary orbit for foreign satellites (Hughes, Philco-Ford, General Electric, Systems Development Corp, and Comsat General). These came in at about $12-15 million per satellite, excluding hardware, a figure to be compared with the launch cost of $10 million per satellite.47

Early in September 1974, in the light of this information, and an imminent visit by NASA administrator Fletcher to Tokyo, the Japanese embassy asked NASA to reconsider its decision. It wanted the agency to provide a complete package after the spacecraft was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center, from checkout, installation in the launch vehicle, insertion into synchronous orbit, in-orbit check out, and, finally, movement of the spacecraft to its desired orbital position. It was only at that point that control over and responsibility for the spacecraft would be turned over to the Japanese.

NASA’s associate administrator for tracking and data acquisition, Gerald Truszynski, explained what this commitment would mean to NASA. The agency would have to extend its span of responsibility considerably, and far beyond the normal provision of tracking and data acquisition support from its existing track­ing stations. Providing a full range of services for three satellites launched in quick succession meant establishing a dedicated Spacecraft Project Office (prob­ably at Goddard Space Flight Centre (GSFC)) to carry out the activities involved.

Operation of the control center and the development of the project-unique soft­ware would be major undertakings. Its personnel would not only have to be thoroughly familiar with the spacecraft design and characteristics but would probably also have to have access to the technical specifications to assure overall compatibility with the ground control systems. They would have to conduct mis­sion analyses to determine optimum mission profiles. Also NASA would have to contract with the spacecraft manufacturers to provide the support at KSC before launch and in the control center during and after launch. In summary, the response from NASA clearly stated that to accept overall responsibility, it would have to divert significant civil service manpower for about 18 months or more. Further, it would result in a complex administrative structure since it was very probable that NASA would be essentially placed between the Japanese and their US spacecraft manufacturers. In sum Truszynski suggested that the best that NASA could do was to compute and supply definitive orbit data in real-time, and to track the spacecraft during transfer orbit. It could also lend a couple of people to each Japanese project to provide technical advice of various kinds, and could host some Japanese engineers to work in its mission control centers and other NASA locations to learn how the agency did the job.48

NASA’s reluctance to satisfy Japan’s demands was reinforced by input from US industry. Bud Wheelon of Hughes Corporation let NASA know that he would be happier if Fletcher did not strike a deal with Japan on orbit inser­tion during the administrator’s forthcoming visit to Tokyo. As George Low explained to the NASA administrator,

Apparently, each of the U. S. companies is in a major loss situation with respect to the satellite being built for the Japanese and had planned to use the orbit insertion business to “get well.” In Bud’s words, “if the government now steps into the orbit insertion business, we would in effect be subsidizing the Japanese at the expense of U. S. industry.”49

The Japanese fought back. Their Japanese scientific counselor at the embassy in Washington, Hisako Uchida, pushed the orbit insertion case further by citing the example of the Italian Sirio satellite, where NASA offered to insert the satellite into the geosynchronous orbit. In reply to the query by Uchida, NASA again detailed its general policy associated with orbit insertion services. NASA’s responsibility was limited to “insertion of the space craft into transfer orbit and all subsequent mission operations is lodged totally with the requesting agency or its contractors.” NASA categorically “denied providing such services for any non-U. S. govern­ment spacecraft launched on a reimbursable basis and does not contemplate doing so in the future.” NASA had to offer geosynchronous orbit injection support ser­vices for the Italians because of the formal commitment made to Italian National Research Council (CNR) in 1971. “In recognition of this commitment prior to adoption of the 1974 policy, NASA agreed in late December 1974 to honor its previous commitment and provide minimal geostationary injection support services for SIRIO only.” In all other reimbursable non-US government cases injection into geostationary orbit “has been and will continue to be conducted from facilities other than NASA’s.” For example, the geostationary orbit injection of the Franco-German Symphonie satellite launched by NASA in December 1974 was conducted from ESOC (European Space Operations Center) in Germany.50 With that the matter was apparently closed in NASA’s favor.

As we have seen Japan’s quest for launcher autonomy was intimately linked with its determination to gain access to the geostationary orbit for telecommu­nications satellites, both to enhance its influence in Intelsat and to strengthen its position in the global market for comsats. To secure the strength of national industry the Japanese authorities took a number of measures in the 1980s to close the home market to outside competition. NASDA channeled “all govern­ment satellite procurement to Japanese firms, prohibited the procurement of all kinds of satellites, and banned the procurements [abroad] of Japan’s telecom­munication giant, NTT, despite the lower price and superior quality of foreign satellites.”51 The result was that local content in comsats increased from 24 per­cent in 1977 to 80 percent in 1988, while local content in broadcast satellites grew from 14 to 83 percent in the same period.52

The US authorities, with widespread domestic support, objected strongly to the restrictions on foreign procurement by Japan in this sector. It not only excluded American firms from the Japanese market but also signaled Tokyo’s determination to secure a leading position in the global telecommunications satellite market. Section 301 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act, passed by Congress in August 1988, provided the United States with an instrument to lever open the Japanese market. The overall legislation had been in place for almost 15 years, and was a response to the change in the American balance of trade beginning in the late 1970s from a modest surplus to a massive deficit. Section 301 was tightened up in 1988 by introducing a so-called Super 301 amendment that was unusual in being “targeted against the behavior of governments in their home markets instead of focusing on the competition provided by imports in the United States” (e. g., by illegal dumping).53 The US trade representative subsequently charged Japan as being engaged in unfair trading practices in three sectors: supercomputers, wood products, and telecommunications satellites, and threatened to impose trade sanc­tions against the country if it did not open these markets to US exports.

The Japanese were outraged as the United States was basically telling them to rein in their ambitions to be major competitors in the world market for comsats. Tokyo caved in all the same, canceling plans for the development of the fourth series of its communication satellite program. US producers such as Loral Space Systems, Hughes Space and Communications Group, and GE successfully won bids to supply satellites to Japanese firms, so pushing them out of the local market. As one representative from Hughes Space put it, the 1990 agreement opened a few more opportunities for the American company but, more impor­tantly, prevented Japan from sheltering “an infant industry that might eventually become a world-class competitor.”54 By the 1990s Japan had its own launchers, and it had built up immense in-house capability in the manufacture of geosta­tionary satellites. Its aspirations of becoming a world leader in the development and sale of space technology had not, however, been realized.

Direct Reception Systems

The direct reception systems, DRS, completed the vast network that was put in place for the SITE project. The development of the DRS was started in 1972 at the Electronics Systems Division of the Space Applications Center in Ahmedabad. The system had three main components: the antenna to receive the signals transmitted by the satellite, the front end converter to transform the signals into a form compatible with a normal television receiver, and a television receiver.

The antennas measuring ten feet in diameter, the front end converter, the most complex one in the assembly, and the television sets were first designed in the Space Application Center (SAC) in Ahmedabad. The prototypes were given to a public sector company, the Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), located in Hyderabad, for mass production. The television monitor itself was basically a commercial model slightly modified for community viewing and rural use. “Seven hundred of the 2400 sets were ‘ruggedized’ by using higher quality components, as a part of an ‘experiment-within-an-experiment’ to inves­tigate the tradeoffs between initial cost and maintenance cost.”32 To facilitate transfer of ‘know-how’ and to expedite production, some ISRO engineers who had developed these units were posted to ECIL.33

The direct reception systems were deployed in selected villages and the dis­tricts of six states, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, and Rajasthan. The villages were selected according to the criteria laid down by the Planning Commission of India. The criteria included availability of electricity, public buildings, low population, and so on. To carry out an orga­nized effort of deployment, operation, and maintenance of these television sets, maintenance subcenters and a central cluster headquarters were established in each state. These cluster headquarters acted as nodes for the distribution and maintenance of the community reception system.

Before the SITE mission in India, the satellite was used to perform a variety of health and education television experiments via satellite in the Appalachian area, the Rocky Mountain Region, and Northwest United States including Alaska.34 In July 1975, while it was being shifted eastward along the equator for the SITE mission, the ATS-6 tracked the docked Apollo and Soyuz spacecraft as they orbited the Earth in the Joint US/USSR manned space mission (see chapter 7). It also relayed live television from these spacecraft to the Earth, thus becoming the first satellite to perform such a feat.35 After this it was positioned at 35,900 kilometers over east Africa and controlled from the Goddard Space Flight Center through a ground station in Spain. Since the downlink SITE fre­quency of 860 megahertz could interfere with terrestrial services in Europe, its antenna was pointed eastward toward India and away from Europe, thus avoid­ing interference with European surface broadcasts.

An Overview of NASA-India Relations

^NaSA’s cooperation with India began with the establishment of satellite track­ing stations and space science. Cognizant of the contributions made by Indian scientists in the field of astronomy and meteorology, a scientific tradition that stretched back several decades, NASA outlined a cooperative program that focused on mutual exploration of the tropical space for scientific data. The cooperation started in the early 1960s with the loan of sounding rockets, launchers, and the training of Indian scientists and engineers at selected NASA facilities dedicated to astronomical and meteorological research. This initial collaboration gradually expanded and more advanced space application projects brought the two demo­cratic countries, in spite of some misgivings, closer together in the common cause of using space sciences and technologies for developing and modernizing India. In the process NASA ended up coproducing a space program that articulated the sentiments of the postcolonial scientific and political elite of India. Conversely, the experience with India imparted a new meaning and architecture of what a space program should be in developing countries in Asia and Latin America.

NASA’s relation with India is contextualized here in the framework of the United States’ relations with India beginning in the early 1950s. The global Cold War and the ambiguities, desires, and tensions of a postcolonial nation-state vying for leadership among the newly decolonized states in the Afro-Asian region forms the essential backdrop to understanding the origins and trajectory of NASA – India relations. Using theoretical underpinnings from postcolonial, diplomatic, and science and technology studies, complemented with oral histories, this chap­ter weaves a narrative describing the motivations, justifications, and the trajectory of NASA’s relations with India.

Two interconnected themes frame its organization. First, the history and dis­course of modernization and development will be used to situate US-India foreign relations in the postwar period. In the wake of the Bandung conference (1955) leaders of newly decolonized states hoped to construct a third, “nonaligned” force in the international arena that was independent of the competing ideolo­gies of progress that defined Cold War rivalry. Bandung also became a platform for developing nations to embrace the mantra of rapid modernization and self­reliance to leapfrog into modernity. This movement was not always welcomed by the United States, which remained at arm’s length from India until its defeat in a

border war with China (1962) and the Chinese nuclear test (1964). The Chinese threat was given a global dimension: the People’s Republic of China (PRC) would become the model for newly liberated countries in the “Third World.” To coun­ter this threat the United States hoped both to accelerate India’s emergence as a major regional power and to use its technological advantage to direct India’s nuclear and missile ambitions into civilian space projects. US-India cooperation in space-based technologies was seen as a prestigious and useful alternative for the development needs of the country. The Indian scientific and political elite, aware of the evolving nonproliferation regime defined by the United States and the Soviet Union, sought to “indigenously” develop their own space technologies both for civilian and military purposes by creating new institutions domestically, and through the transnational traffic of experts, systems, and software. These themes are explored in what follows by tracing NASA’s relations with India on four technological systems—tracking stations and sounding rockets, communi­cation satellites, remote sensing, and launch vehicles.1

Technological Component: The Software

The term “software” was generally used for the program content of the satel­lite broadcast. An enormous amount of programming had to be produced for SITE as the satellite was available to India for approximately 1,400 hours of transmission.36 All India Radio, later Doordarshan, took the overall responsibil­ity for producing these programs. The educational programs were produced in three base production centers: Cuttack, Hyderabad, and Delhi. The production of such a large number of programs, keeping in view the basic objectives and the specific audience requirements, was a challenging task. Most of the studio facilities available to SITE were small, underequipped, and understaffed. This fact, coupled with the time pressure for production, created a continuing pres­sure toward easy-to-produce “entertainment” programming, even when audi­ence feedback indicated a preference for the so-called hard core instructional programs.37 Since the software part demanded a lot of attention from the Indian side Frutkin made every attempt to ensure that it was done properly. “When he visited India in January 1975, seven months before the experiment started, he insisted on a physical examination of television studios and programs.”38

Doordarshan formed separate committees to assist program production relat­ing to agriculture, health, and family planning. These committees were helped by institutions like the agricultural universities, teachers training colleges, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and so on.39 Other departments and agencies like the Film Division, the National Center for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) under the Department of Education, along with inde­pendent producers, contributed to making film material for the software con­tent of the SITE project. SITE broadcasts regularly reached over 2,300 villages. Their size varied from 600 to 3,000 people, with an average of 1,200 inhabit­ants. Thus, about 2.8 million people had daily access to SITE programming.40 The programs were available for some four hours a day and were telecast twice, morning and evening.

SITE ended on July 31, 1976. Seeing the success of the project the Indian offi­cials and policymakers requested an extension of the program for one more year, but the request was not granted and ATS-6 was pulled back to the American region.

Frutkin, who orchestrated the SITE project for NASA, said that the one-year experiment proved the possibilities of the use of advanced satellites for mass communication. And he clearly knew that it would bring monetary benefits. “We took the satellite back. What was the consequence? India contracted with Ford Aerospace for a commercial satellite to continue their programs. . . the

Technological Component: The SoftwareBROADCAST SATELLITE BRINGS


Figure 12.4 ATS receiver and SITE watchers. Source: NASA.

point is, this program not only was an educational lift to India and demonstrated what such a satellite could do, but it brought money back into the U. S. com­mercial contracts for satellites for a number of years.”41 Years earlier in a House Committee report on the implications of satellite communications, he expressed the same view: “I’m quite confident that by virtue of our participation in this experiment, India will look to the U. S. first for the commercial and launching assistance it requires for future programs. And I think this is a very important product of our relationship.”42

SITE was regarded by many as a landmark experiment in the rapid upgrading of education in a developing country (figure 12.4). It became the most innova­tive and potentially the most far-reaching effort to apply advanced Western tech­nologies to the traditional problems of the developing world. For the first time NASA and ISRO cooperated very closely in an effort to determine the feasibility of using experimental communication satellite technology to contribute to the solution of some of India’s major education and development needs.43 For NASA the experiment provided a proof that advanced technology could play a major part in solving the problems of less-developed countries. It was seen as an impor­tant expression of US policy to make the benefits of its space technology directly available to other peoples and also a valuable test of the technology and social mechanisms of community broadcasting. Seeing Indian states to be linguisti­cally divided, the US State Department hoped that the experiment offered India an important and useful domestic tool in the interests of national cohesion. The experiment also stimulated a domestic television manufacturing enterprise in India with important managerial, economic, and technological implications. It provided information and experience of value for future application of educa­tional programs elsewhere in the world.44

Frutkin was emphatic about the value of SITE for other developing countries. “The Indian experiment is, of course, of prime significance for developing coun­tries, those which have not been able to reach large segments of their population, those which have overriding social problems which might be ameliorated through communication and education and particularly those where visual techniques could help to bypass prevalent illiteracy.”45 The SITE experiment played a cru­cial role for India too. The results of the year-long SITE project were evaluated carefully by the Indian government. The data played a major role in determin­ing whether India should continue to develop her own communication satellite program (INSAT) or fall back on the use of more traditional, terrestrial forms of mass communication in order to transmit educational programs to the popu­lace.46 Thanks to SITE the first-generation Indian National Satellite (INSAT-1) series, four in total, was built by Ford Aerospace in the United States.47

The SITE project represented an important experimental step in the develop­ment of a national communications system and of the underlying technological, managerial, and social supporting elements. Following the proposal made by India, Brazil too initiated a proposal for a quite different educational broad­cast experiment utilizing the ATS-6 spacecraft. The project was intended to serve as the development prototype of a system that would broadcast television and radio instructional material to the entire country through a government – owned geostationary satellite.48 Frutkin saw the Indian project and the Brazilian experiment to be a model for other developing countries. In 1976 Indonesia became the first country in the developing world to have its own satellite system, the Palapa satellite system, manufactured by engineers at NASA and at Hughes Aerospace.49

SITE showed India that a high technology could be used for socioeconomic development. It became one justification for building a space program in a poor country—the question became “not whether India could afford a space program but can it afford not to have one”?50 “Modernization” through science and tech­nology was not new to the Indian subcontinent. In more than two centuries of British occupation India witnessed a huge incursion of technologies—railways, telegraph, telephone, radio, plastics, printing presses for “development” and extraction.51 The geosynchronous satellite in postcolonial India can be seen as an extension of the terrestrial technologies that the British used to civilize/ modernize a traditional society. In this case the United States replaced the erst­while imperial power to bring order, control, and “modernization” to the newly decolonized states through digital images using satellite technologies that were far removed from the territorial sovereignty of nation-states.52

US-India Foreign Relations

One cannot understand postindependent India without reference to the United States. Scholars who have studied the history of Indo-US relations over the last five decades have almost exhausted the English vocabulary to describe the ten­sions that prevailed between the two largest democracies.2 In the Cold War that ensued between the United States and the USSR soon after the independence of India and Pakistan from British rule in 1947, the United States favored an alli­ance with Pakistan owing to its strategic location, bordering the USSR, China, and the Middle Eastern countries. The ensuing partnership was intended to counter any communist expansion from China or the USSR into the South Asian region. While India espoused the policy of nonalignment, Pakistan sided with the United States, joined the Baghdad Pact and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), and received extensive military supplies. This close alli­ance between the United Sates and Pakistan resulted in increased alienation between the United States and India and in the words of Dennis Kux, there was “a failure to understand each other’s political, economic, and geo-strategic complexities,” which ultimately “deepened these asymmetries.”3

However, though the political relations between United States and India seemed “estranged” on the surface during most of the Cold War, it is rather intriguing to see, underneath this “cold peace,” the extensive role the United States played through different government institutions and agencies to modern­ize India and to establish it as an alternative to the communist model adopted by the Soviet Union and, above all, China. As decolonization gathered momentum, the United States felt that it was imperative to stabilize and develop the country along capitalist and democratic ideals so as to win the hearts and minds of mil­lions of people in the Afro-Asian region. This is evident through the massive economic aid India received from the United States during the first two decades of India’s independence and the constant traffic of experts—from science and technology to cultural, linguistic, and economic fields—between the “metropo­lis” and “periphery.”4 Early nuclear cooperation, the origin and development of the Indian space program through NASA, artificial rainmaking experiments, oceanography studies, hybrid seeds and green revolution experiments through the Rockefeller Foundation—all of these technological projects during the 1950s and 1960s can only be seen as part of a sustained attempt by the United States to pull the Indian elite into the Western sphere of influence.

India’s humiliating defeat in the border war with China in 1962 briefly brought the United States and India diplomatically together. The defeat by China was a “Sputnik shock” for the Indians that led to a rapid rise in defense budgets. Renewed importance was given to science and technology for defense purposes. John F. Kennedy‘s administration made use of this opportunity to promote India’s democratic credentials. Kennedy’s policy toward developing countries, India in particular, showed a striking difference compared to previous administrations. While Eisenhower’s secretary of state John Foster Dulles divided countries into pro- and anticommunists, Kennedy and his advisers were sensitive to the needs of new postcolonial states and gave room for the expression of independent for­eign polices by different countries in the developing world. They also believed that economic stability would bring prosperity and political stability that in turn would be a bulwark against expanding communism. However, ongoing distrust of India’s neutrality colored Kennedy’s perception of the country and restricted the scale of his innovative approaches to improved bilateral relations.

Viewed through this geopolitical contextual grid, NASA’s significant coop­erative endeavors were not uniform but ebbed and flowed and were constantly shaped by this larger bilateral foreign policy framework. Significant punctuation points that altered, for better or for worse, NASA’s relations with India were: India’s border war with China—1962; the Chinese nuclear test—1964; the Indo – Pakistan War—1971; India’s first Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE)—1974; the start of the Integrated Guided Missile Development program, IGMDP, in India—1983, after the successful orbiting of India’s satellite Rohini through an indigenously built Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-3) in 1980; the impact of the Missile Technology Control Regime, MTCR—1987; the Pokhran II nuclear weapons tests—1998; and the closer diplomatic relations that ensued after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

This study of NASA-India relations is divided into two chapters. The first is a chronological narrative spanning five decades, beginning with space sci­ences initiated by NASA in the early 1960s and ending with a scientific moon mission called Chandrayaan I (Moon craft) in 2008. Built and orchestrated by India, Chandrayaan I, carried two NASA-built instruments on its maiden voy­age; it was a proud moment for both parties to see the maturation of a space program that NASA helped to found with the Indian scientific elite in the early 1960s. Chapter 12 describes a joint application satellite project called the Satellite Instructional Television Experiment (SITE) in 1975-1976, often quoted by NASA officials as a prime example of the agency’s international collaboration. SITE led to a follow-on project in which US business corporations sold commu­nication satellites—the INSAT series—and launches to India.5

Space Collaboration Today: The ISS

Two major geopolitical changes in the 1990s have had very different impacts on NASA’s international relations over the past 20 years. The implosion of the Soviet system and the political will to integrate Russia into the core of what became the International Space Station (ISS) produced an exception to some time-hallowed NASA policies, notably, the notions of clean interfaces and no exchange of funds. By contrast, the “leakage” of sensitive satellite and missile technology to China, and its willingness to work closely with “rogue states” like Iran, gave traction to those who believed that the United States had to be far more prudent in its international posture, above all in sharing technology.1 This led to a tighter implementation of the ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) particularly as regards satellites. This added more layers of com­plexity and bureaucracy to international collaboration with traditional allies, and has stimulated lively debates between diverse stakeholders about the costs and benefits of implementing export controls more rigorously.

This chapter and the next discuss these developments. Since NASA’s decision to incorporate Russia into the ISS is treated in chapter 8, this analysis will pay greater attention to the structures of collaboration that were put in place before 1993. Those structures were deeply influenced by the history of NASA’s rela­tions with its traditional partners, above all Western Europe. Concerns about European disappointment at the outcome of the post-Apollo negotiations (chap­ters 4-6) and the ISPM affair (chapter 2) hung over negotiations between NASA and ESA. These past setbacks to the otherwise smooth path of cooperation were consciously drawn on as lessons that were not to be repeated. The classic prin­ciples of no exchange of funds and clean interfaces were not, however, put in question. That only happened when Russia was drawn into the project, bringing with it an array of Cold War technologies, record-breaking experience of long – duration human spaceflight, and a disintegrating infrastructure of institutions and industries that were seeking a new role for themselves. The architecture of the ISS was accommodated to incorporate Russian elements into technolo­gies that were critical to mission success. Millions of US dollars, both private and public, flowed to various actors in the Russian space sector in an attempt to revitalize them, and to engage them more tightly with American practices and priorities. The end-result was a space station in which NASA found itself

dependent on its partners in ways that were historically unprecedented. A new kind of international cooperation had been imposed, in which NASA’s mandate to sustain US leadership had to contend with its loss of autonomy.

Vikram Sarabhai and Homi J. Bhabha

The origin of the Indian space story often begins with the visionary scientist and technocrat Vikram Sarabhai, who is credited as being the father of India’s space program. But the early phase owes as much to the pioneering efforts of Homi Bhabha who was instrumental in the establishment of scientific institutions for the growth of science and technology in modern India.6 By the late 1950s, when initiatives were taken to pursue space research at a systematic level in India using scientific balloons and miniature rockets, Bhabha had already established the sci­entific ethos and the rationale for the pursuit of cutting-edge technologies in the nuclear and space domains, and had launched a major nuclear program. The duo, however, were not new to the field of space sciences; they had established their niche in cosmic ray physics even before they thought about huge scientific projects for the emerging nation state.7 In particular, Sarabhai was aware of the research opportunities, made possible by space technology, to study the upper atmosphere. Together they initiated early interactions with NASA for possible cooperative space projects.

Vikram Ambala Sarabhai was born in Ahmedabad, India, on August 12, 1919, to a wealthy family of industrialists.8 After finishing his early education in Ahmedabad he moved to St. John’s College, Cambridge, United Kingdom, in 1937 to read for his Physics and Mathematics Tripos. He returned to India after the outbreak of World War II and continued his professional training as a research scholar for several years under Nobel Laureate C. V. Raman at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC), Bangalore. It was at IISC that he nurtured a friendship with Homi Bhabha who was also doing research on cosmic rays, and who established a research unit for this purpose at IISC.9

Sarabhai returned to Cambridge after the war in 1945 and his extensive fieldwork carried out in Bangalore and Apharwat in the Kashmir region of the Himalayas enabled him to receive his PhD in 1947 for his doctoral thesis, Cosmic Ray Investigation in Tropical Latitudes. He returned to a new India that became independent in 1947 after centuries of British colonial rule. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first prime minister. Trained in Harrow and Cambridge, Nehru believed science to be a panacea for the innumerable problems faced by human­ity. As he put it,

[I]t is science alone that can solve the problem of hunger and poverty, of insanita­tion and illiteracy, of superstition and deadening custom and tradition, of vast resources running to waste, of a rich country inhabited by starving people. Who indeed can afford to ignore science today? At every turn we have to seek its aid. The future belongs to science and to those who make friends with science.10

There was an air of optimism and vibrancy, and the trio—Nehru, Bhabha, and Sarabhai—with patronage from the government and private industrial enterprises like the Tata family and Sarabhai’s own family business conglomerate, would become potent actors to wield science and technology to cement the new nation­state.11

Vikram Sarabhai started a laboratory for the study of cosmic rays in Ahmedabad, which was later institutionalized by the setting up of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in 1954.12 Thanks to the business enterprise his family had established, he became in Thomas Hughes’s phrase, a heterogeneous engineer with a multitude of portfolios.13 Popular writings portray him as an institution builder, a visionary, a pragmatist, and a Gandhian. Sarabhai never wavered in his view that the development of a nation was intimately linked with the under­standing and application of science and technology by its people. He selectively appropriated the modernization theories emanating from premier institutions like Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in the United States and created a rationale for a space program in a poor developing country, characterizing it as “a space program for rural development.” Thus for him, “Pursuit of cosmic rays and space research does not require an apology in a developing nation provided the activities are within a total scheme of priorities in the allocation of national resources.” He stressed that many of those who were engaged in pure science were also “involved in the organization and conduct of education, of planning and of industrial development in fields such as electronics and chemicals.” He himself “was actively interested in the application of science for the improvement of agricultural productivity and in the implications of science to society and problems of security.”14 For Sarabhai it was under these conditions that the indigenous development of advanced science and technology, including in space, was an imperative, not a luxury for a huge and relatively poor country like India. Indeed he believed that “what applies to the economy of India applies to the economy of most of the countries in the Indian Ocean region.” This is also why, while advocating for space, he was vocal against the superficial craving for prestige as justification for a developing nation to embark on a space program.

Vikram Sarabhai was also known in international circles as an apostle for world peace and disarmament. He was a member of Continuing Committee of Pugwash, and participated in Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and set up the Indian Pugwash Society. In the late 1960s Sarabhai became the scientific chairman of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, and so became a vector, as it were, to publicize the benefits of space for the newly formed devel­oping nation-states. He was also interested in integrating India with the global community. His familiarity and high esteem at international meetings was recog­nized and he was also elected president of the fourteenth general Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1970. The sense of isolation that India experienced under colonial rule served as a major impetus for building a domestic program, to engage with scientific institutions around the world as an equal partner, and to create avenues for technology and idea sharing.

US officials were captivated by the unusual combination of industrialist and physicist in one man. His participation in international conferences, his accomplish­ments in basic scientific research, his visiting faculty status at MIT, the list of com­mittees, commissions, and boards that he was a member of impressed the American embassy officials in India who wrote long reports to the US State Department of his activities. These qualities played a crucial part when NASA sought to build col­laborative partnerships with the developing regions—here was a member of a native elite who could be a suitable ambassador for NASA’s peaceful programs in develop­ing countries, and not just in the region but across the world.

Seeing the emerging field of space science and technology, and the prom­ise it offered, Homi Bhabha, the secretary of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), also carved a niche within DAE in August 1961 for a rudimentary space science and research cell. Before the formation of this cell the Indian National Committee for the IGY had been asked to serve provisionally as the National Space Committee for India adhering to COSPAR. The initial cooperative relations between NASA and India were primarily negotiated by the DAE through Bhabha and Sarabhai. Prudence was the watchword at this time since, unlike Pakistan or Japan, there was no security arrangement in place with India for the protection of sensitive or classified information. The State Department was also aware of the presence of Soviet scientists and tech­nicians, including a number of Soviet airmen, in the country, and took note of the close cooperation that India sought with the USSR covering peaceful uses of atomic energy, operation of nuclear power stations, and the produc­tion and processing of uranium. Bhabha was particularly worrying: the State Department described him as one who expressed communist sentiments and who was also involved in “communist front activities.” He was seen as a poten­tial technocrat who could “utilize contacts with both sides involved in the East-West struggle in order to achieve the most advantageous opportunities to advance his objectives.”

Sarabhai died in 1971. The direction the Indian space program took under Vikram Sarabhai and the close cooperation he enjoyed with NASA, both techni­cal and managerial, for more than a decade shaped the future trajectory of the country’s space ambitions.

The President Commits to the International Space Station

No sooner was the space shuttle declared operational in 1981 than the new NASA administrator, James Beggs, appointed by President Reagan, began to actively promote a space station as the next “logical step” for the agency.2 He quickly made a major effort to stimulate foreign interest in the new American project, using the shuttle to advertise America’s ongoing mastery of space. In June, 1983 Beggs and his deputy administrator, Hans Mark, toured European capitals with the unpowered prototype of the orbiter Enterprise piggy-backing on a specially adapted Boeing 747. It was displayed at the Paris Air Show on June 4 and to a wildly enthusiastic crowd at Stansted Airport near London the next day. It then went to Ottawa where 400,000 people turned out to see it, and the Canadian minster of science and technology announced the creation of a Canadian astronaut program.3

The opponents of the space station were not swayed by the excitement.4 Caspar Weinberger, the secretary of defense was particularly hostile to the project. George Keyworth, the president’s science adviser, was skeptical. Two pro-station staff members in the White House, Gil Rye, of the National Security Council Staff, and Craig Fuller, an ardent advocate of the commercial potential of space, decided to take steps to circumvent the opposition. They scheduled a Cabinet meeting on December 1, 1983, at which Beggs could present his case for the station directly to the president in a reasonably hospitable environment.5 The NASA administra­tor gave a masterful presentation that skillfully exploited Reagan’s concern about the decline of American power and prestige vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. He dra­matized the threat by showing the Salyut space station overflying the country, adding that the Soviets were preparing to launch an even bigger facility into space in the near future (Mir). If an American station was begun at once, said Beggs, it could build on the breadth and depth of the country’s spaceflight capability to ensure that the United States would “dominate the space environment for twenty years.”6 The president was persuaded that a civilian space station with scientific and commercial potential would be a useful counterweight and complement to his space-based antimissile system called SDI (the strategic defense initiative). A few days later David Stockman in the OMB met with Reagan and Beggs to sanc­tion the appropriation request for the space station.7

When Beggs spoke before the president in December he made no mention of international participation. The issue did arise though when the cost came up. Beggs suggested to Reagan’s associates that the station would cost $8 billion, a figure that was essentially determined by his judgment as to the maximum fig­ure that the president would accept. He added that international collaboration would provide additional funds. This argument was crucial at the time because the DoD were convinced that the station would drain money away from SDI. Peggy Finarelli, who joined NASA’s Office of International Affairs in 1981, worked closely with Rye to push the space station to the top of the president’s agenda.8 She takes up the narrative:

Defense Department objected to the Space Station, period. CIA sided with them because they’re part of the national security community. OMB sided with them because OMB hates anything that costs money. State Department sided with them because the Under Secretary in charge of science and tech­nology at State at that time was a fellow who had come from earlier political careers in both DoD and OMB, so even though he was at State, he was siding with the national security community and objecting to the Space Station. So we were alone in our proposal, but adamant that we wanted to do the Station and that we wanted to do it as an international partnership.9

The international issue remained a “major battling point” with the other agen­cies as NASA tried to figure out how to present the president’s decision publicly. Rye and Finarelli stuck to their guns, recognizing that “if it was an international project and it was announced as such in the State of the Union, it was going to be far harder to unwrap” than if it was simply a domestic project. They won the day, and it was to Beggs’s “surprise and pleasure” that Reagan chose to announce his support for the space station on January 25, 1984.10 In his annual State of the Union address the president reported that he had directed NASA to develop a permanently manned space station within a decade. Reagan announced that NASA would “invite other countries to participate so that we can strengthen peace, build prosperity, and expand freedom for all who share our goals.”11 Just before he made his public statement the president alerted the political leaders in Britain, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as in Canada and Japan. He added that Beggs would shortly be coming to meet with senior officials of foreign governments on his behalf to develop the cooperative effort.12 The space station was thus presidentially sanctioned as an advanced technological platform that would bind together the nations of the free world. This gave it immense social weight both at home and abroad. As one leading British space administrator put it to Finarelli, whereas the decision in principle of whether to build a station was taken in Washington, “we had a very different decision to make. The [decision] that our political authorities had to take was not whether a space station made sense to build. The decision we had to make was: Given that the U. S. has decided to build a space station, and has invited us to join, can we afford not to?”13

A further boost to international involvement was provided at the London Economic Summit in June 1984. It was one of the talking points on President Reagan’s agenda for private meetings. As the seven heads of state emerged from one of their meetings they were confronted with a model of the space station that included elements that could be built abroad. The communique issued after the London summit was positive but prudent, endorsing manned space stations as valuable for industrial and economic development and committing the signato­ries only to “consider carefully the generous and thoughtful invitation received from the President of the United States to participate.”14

Beggs made it clear that the United States was looking for significant contribu­tions to the space station project, roughly 10-20 percent of the partners’ overall space budgets for the next decade. Technological exchange would be restricted as much as possible. As he put it to the director of the Johnson Space Flight Center in April 1984, the administration was “concerned about careless and unnecessary revelation of sensitive technology to our free world competitors— sometimes to the serious detriment of this nation’s vital commercial competitive position.”15 Beggs hoped that participation in the station would draw the sting from this competition by diverting resources into a major technological project under American leadership. In fact the NASA administrator admitted as much in the presence of representatives from foreign industries and space agencies. The station, he said, lent itself “uniquely to international cooperation,” adding that “if we can attract that cooperation then other nations will be cooperating with us in the resources that they spend, rather than competing with us.”16 Beggs’s one-sided emphasis on the benefits to the United States of international participation was probably “particularly galling” (Logsdon) to those present, a clumsy way to resolve the tension between NASA’s joint obligations to lead and to collaborate.17

NASA and the Origins of the Indian Space (Science) Program

The United States’ relations with India in the civilian aspects of space dates back to 1957 when the Uttar Pradesh State Observatory at Nainital, situated in Northern India, began the optical tracking of satellites in collaboration with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO).15 This was initiated in the framework of the Indian IGY program. The technical equipment provided was the highly specialized Baker-Nunn satellite tracking camera and a quartz clock. It was one of twelve in the world that filled an important gap between Iran and Japan in the global network of tracking stations. Through these stations, the approximate positions of satellites (both Soviet and American) were obtained.

Following the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union in 1957 the United States, through the newly formed NASA, made several overtures to emerging “third world” countries, inviting them to participate in the space program by experimenting with sounding rockets. Some countries, seeing the prestige asso­ciated with modern space technologies, immediately responded to the offers made by NASA to establish sounding rocket bases and develop nascent space programs at home. Working on space sciences offered the newly decolonized states and developing countries the promise of a march toward modernity—the native elite viewed experimenting with rockets as a source of pride, prestige, and a visibility among nation-states. However, very few countries that accepted the offers (tracking stations and sounding rocket facilities) actually sustained and built their own space programs for socioeconomic and strategic needs.

India’s first encounter with NASA came in the form of tracking stations. These became the channel through which the agency began to extend its reach to include other nations in a worldwide data acquisition system for satellites launched by the United States. By 1963, 28 such stations in 16 countries were established.16 They not only functioned as scientific instruments for dissemi­nating data for the United States but also served as conduits for host countries to begin their own space programs. Milton C. Rewinkel, the US consul gen­eral, remarked that “[i]t is a matter of some pride to us, too, that by making America’s space knowledge experience and facilities available to foreign scien­tists, the United States has enabled several other countries to initiate their own space program and develop their own space technology.”17

The initial motivation for NASA to cooperate in a sounding rocket program with India was the perceived benefit of getting scientific data on the tropical atmosphere. These ambitions neatly merged with India’s long scientific tradition of studying cosmic rays and the sun’s ultraviolet rays. This work had been started by physicists such as Megnad Saha, who was later followed by scientists such as K. R. Ramanathan,18 Raman Pisharoty, Homi Bhabha, Vikram Sarabhai, and others.19 The early space science experiments using balloons and miniature rock­ets during the 1950s and 1960s were gradually nurtured into a space program by Sarabhai. The implementation of his ambitions was possible thanks to NASA’s help, gifted scientists, the Cold War, India’s geographic location close to the magnetic equator, and the political will of the Indian leaders.

The first recorded mention of Vikram Sarabhai expressing an interest in NASA’s international cooperative programs was in the spring of 1961, while he was enrolled as a visiting professor at MIT. Following his previous discussions with world-renowned physicists such as Bruno Rossi at MIT, James Van Allen at Iowa, and J. A. Simpson and P. Mayer at Chicago, Sarabhai told NASA of India’s plans to start a space science research program at select facilities: the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad; the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Bombay; and the Tata Institute of Nuclear Physics (TINP), Calcutta. He also described his plans to recruit trained Indian physicists in European countries and the United States.

During the meeting with NASA officials Sarabhai explored possible coop­erative endeavors that could be mutually beneficial to both NASA and India, including magnetic fields, solar radio astronomy, geomagnetism, atmospheric studies from 30 to 150 kilometers, trapped particles in radiation belts and elec­tro jet studies. In furthering these fields of research he discussed the possibility of a cooperative sounding rocket program between India and NASA and also a telemetry receiving facility at the PRL, Ahmedabad. It was also in this meeting that Sarabhai learned about the work of atmospheric scientist Lawrence Cahill of the University of New Hampshire. Cahill would later visit India to conduct a number of sounding rocket experiments. This included launching an experiment to study the equatorial electro-jet by flying a magnetometer to an altitude of approximately 200 kilometers.20 Encouraged by this account, in July Frutkin sent a memorandum to Sarabhai proposing a working arrangement with his PRL to record data from the Explorer Number XI Gamma Ray astronomy satellite using telemetry-receiving equipment loaned from the United States. This arrived on September 6, 1961, and was the first instrument from NASA to enter India.21

Frutkin hoped that this ad hoc arrangement could stimulate a more durable and centrally coordinated collaborative program between NASA and a gov­ernment-sponsored Indian space research committee that Sarabhai spoke of.22 Homi Bhabha, who combined nuclear matters with space science and technol­ogy topics during his periodic visits to the United States, confirmed that such a committee was being formed when he visited NASA Headquarters between

November 9 and 15, 1961. He stated that the committee would be responsible for selecting appropriate programs for India, and for training young people in the field of space sciences and technology. It would also send representatives to participate in meetings organized by COSPAR. Bhabha suggested that the “committee” would become the principal point of contact with NASA.

Frutkin’s reply to Bhabha after his visit suggested possible areas of coopera­tion. He saw the establishment of a sounding rocket range close to the geomag­netic equator to be “most desirable” for launching scientific payloads prepared by PRL and TIFR for detecting high-energy neutrons emitted from the sun during periods of significant solar activity. Second, he suggested the launching of Indian sodium vapor payloads to investigate various properties of the upper atmosphere near the geomagnetic equator and the possible launchings of rockets during the International Quiet Sun Year (IQSY) as part of a proposed large-scale effort to make meteorological and ionospheric soundings on a synoptic basis. Third, he stressed the importance of participation in low-altitude meteoro­logical rocket observations in conjunction with the International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE). After stating the possible avenues of cooperative endeavors, Frutkin drafted a memorandum of understanding (MOU), between India and NASA outlining the broad areas of mutual program interest and indicating the general guidelines for the conduct of the program.23

The body mentioned to Frutkin by Sarabhai and Bhabha, the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), met for the first time on February 22, 1962. It was formed within the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) under the chairmanship of Sarabhai and was composed of eminent scientists who were instructed to manage all aspects of space research in the country.24 The establish­ment of this institution brought organization and coordination to isolated space activities that were carried out in different regions across the country. It dealt with both national and international affairs, until a separate Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) was formed in 1969. In 1972 ISRO was separated from the DAE and was constituted under the newly created Department of Space (DOS). INCOSPAR, however, did not cease to exist; it was reconstituted under the Indian National Academy of Science (INAS) and retained responsibility for the promotion of international cooperation in space research and exploration and peaceful uses of outer space, and liaison with the UN Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).

A memorandum of understanding was signed between NASA and the DAE on October 11, 1962.25 It provided for collaborative research on the upper atmosphere using sounding rockets. Under the agreement, NASA provided nine Nike Apache launchers, a trailer-mounted telemetry receiving station, a trailer – mounted DOVAP tracking system, a trailer-mounted MPS-19 radar with 016 computer and 70 KVA diesel generators, a Judi-Dart launcher insert, K-24 cam­eras for vapor cloud photography, and tracking and telemetry equipment and ground instrumentation on a loan basis.26 These were to be used for joint scien­tific experiments to explore the equatorial electro-jet27 and upper atmosphere28 winds from the geomagnetic equator. Considering that India was pursuing a policy of nonalignment at the height of Cold War rivalry, NASA was also eager to enter into cooperative arrangements with Delhi to “maximize the orientation of Indian scientists towards the US and away from the Soviets in the advanced application of science.”29

While the INCOSPAR was being constituted the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) passed a resolution recommending and sponsoring the creation and use of sounding rocket launching facilities, especially in the equatorial regions in the southern hemisphere. Taking the cue from the United Nations, a possible site in Southern India was discussed by the Indian scientists along with NASA. To help choose the most appropri­ate location, NASA forwarded volumes of the Wallops Island handbooks, and Frutkin communicated to Bhabha his willingness to host Indian representatives at Wallops for additional discussions and/or to send NASA representatives to India for “possible assistance there in problems relating to site selection and instrumentation.”30 The role played by the Indian pioneers in the selection of this site is often stressed but the extent to which scientists and officials from NASA were also involved has been ignored.31 Reports indicate the active par­ticipation of scientists R. G. Bivin, Jr., Robert Duffy, and Lawrence Cahill of NASA, and of their close relationship with Vikram Sarabhai.32

The Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) was established in 1963 at the coastal village of Thumba, in the state of Kerala. Its southern loca­tion (8° 33’ N, 76° 56’E) close to the magnetic equator (0° 24’S) proved an ideal location for launching sounding rockets to undertake geophysical investigations, particularly those dealing with the interaction of neutral and charged particles in the earth’s magnetic field.33 The advantages of such a site were pointed out by Frutkin. As he noted, the “true potential of sounding rockets as a scien­tific tool can be realized only if many vertical profiles are obtained—in a wide range of localities and epochs—with correlation of the results. International cooperation is obviously an essential ingredient for sounding rocket work.”34 Cooperative launchings of sounding rockets took place in many countries with shared responsibility from the host countries, mainly ground instrumentation and data analysis.35 Sarabhai saw the importance of sounding rockets for upper atmospheric studies but also recognized the importance of ground facilities such as those at Thumba. “The study of this region in the equatorial areas is one of the major gaps in the study of our environment today,” he wrote, adding that “as far as India is concerned with the facilities that have grown up, we have fantastic opportunities in the years to come to understand many complex phe­nomena involving the interaction of the ionosphere with the geomagnetic field, problems of the neutral and the ionized atmosphere and the interaction of these two.” Consistent with his stress on the significance of basic research for applied and socially relevant problems, Sarabhai went on to emphasize that “these sub­jects are of importance not only for the understanding of radio propagation, but also from the point of view of meteorology and basic problems of energy and momentum transport into the lower atmosphere where climate is made.”36 These were persuasive claims for an agricultural economy that depended cru­cially on the weather to feed millions of rural families.

Scholarly research on the origins of the Indian space program often mention the launch from Thumba of a Nike Apache sounding rocket donated by NASA on November 21, 1963, as the starting point of the Indian space program—truly a historic moment for the country. Apart from making scientific measurements in the southern region of India, it was also a visual manifestation of modernity in the tropical skies. When the rocket lit up the twilight sky with an orange trail left by sodium vapor experiments, there was real excitement and jubilation in the subcon­tinent (see also the section on France in chapter 2). The Legislative assembly of Kerala, a communist-led government,37 where Thumba is located, was adjourned for a few minutes so that the members could watch the magnificent display left behind in the western sky by the Nike Apache rocket and the sodium vapor trail.38 This spectacle, displayed thanks to the joint collaboration between NASA and INCOSPAR, was translated into a great achievement for the early Indian scientists and national leaders, who saw space research as a harbinger of modernity in the newly decolonized state and as a symbol of prestige and development.39

Site selection was just the first step, of course. Beyond this there were various technological hurdles to establishing a sounding rocket range for launching and retrieving data from the sounding rocket payload. To ease the difficulties the MOU between NASA and INCOSPAR included a provision for the recruitment of a small group of young men affiliated with INCOSPAR to visit NASA for training at the Goddard Space Flight Centre, and at the Wallops Island facility, where they would learn about building and launching sounding rockets. This training was in assembling imported sounding rockets and their scientific pay­loads, procedures for the safe launch of these rockets, tracking the flight of the rockets, receiving data radioed down during flight, and collecting other scien­tific information required. Initially, eight Indian representatives appointed by INCOSPAR were trained at NASA field centers for approximately six months in preparation for operations at the Thumba Range. On their return, these men set up the sounding rocket range in Thumba. Subsequently, there was a constant traffic of scientists and engineers, in batches, from India to NASA facilities dur­ing the 1960s.

What began as a “bilateral Indo-American launching facility” at TERLS evolved into an international facility, a productive site where different countries, includ­ing France and the Soviet Union, could join together for promoting the peaceful uses of outer space in spite of their political differences. Frutkin strongly favored Soviet participation, believing that it “might lift some of the veil of secrecy from Soviet space activities.”40

Frutkin suggested to Sarabhai that he offer TERLS to international par­ticipants and to seek UN sponsorship. A resolution was later introduced by the United States into the Technical Subcommittee of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space for UN sponsorship of sounding rocket ranges in “scientifically critical locations,” encouraging other countries to use such facilities.41 COSPAR was also looking for the creation of an equatorial sounding rocket launching facility for two major international programs—the International Indian Ocean Expedition (1962-1967) and the International Quiet Sun Year (1964-1965).42 Sarabhai decided to make TERLS available and told Frutkin that “you will be glad to learn that India has decided to extend an invitation for the location of a U. N. equatorial launching facility in India, on the lines of the recommendations made at the Geneva meetings of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the U. N Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.”43 R. Shroff, deputy secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, govern­ment of India, said that “if the United Nations accepts the offer, it is our inten­tion that the launching facility to be set up in collaboration with NASA should be dovetailed into the international facility.”44

In January 1964 a team of scientists appointed by the UN committee inspected TERLS to determine its compliance with the condition of sponsorship for an international sounding rocket facility, and reported favorably. Sarabhai years later mentioned that “the sponsorship of TERLS by the UN [was] not simply for­mal; it constituted an umbrella under which over 105 rocket experiments were conducted by various nations like France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, USA and USSR, jointly with India, as an example of active co-operation in space research.”45 An International Advisory Panel was formed comprising two rep­resentatives each from India, the United States, the USSR, and France to con­tinue operations. TERLS was formally dedicated to the United Nations in 1969 in the presence of various dignitaries including, from NASA, Arnold Frutkin and Leonard Jaffe, director of Space Applications programs, Office of Space Science and Applications. The meeting was presided over by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The sounding rockets provided by NASA during the early 1960s were “low – end” declassified scientific instruments. The case of the transfer of Arcas sounding rockets for the International Indian Ocean Experiment (IIOE) throws light on the sensitiveness of donating advanced sounding rockets. IIOE involved multina­tional sounding rocket experiments at various points in the Indian Ocean region for the “intensive and coherent investigation of an ocean atmosphere regimen.” NASA wanted to organize this joint experiment in cooperation with the National Academy of Science, the US Weather Bureau, and the American Coordinator for Meteorology in the IIOE, along with India and Pakistan. Problems soon emerged. The Atlantic Research Corporation manufactured the Arcas rockets for the Navy and they classified the technology as “confidential.” Providing these rockets to Pakistan did not cause any problem because, as was pointed out earlier, Pakistan was a preferred ally of the United States, and a diplomatic framework was in place to enable the transfer with appropriate guarantees. But there was no such framework for dealing with India—and Frutkin felt that it would be “awk­ward to conduct an Indian Ocean program without the participation of India.” He cited the visit of Prime Minister Nehru to the United States in the fall of 1962 and specifically mentioned the joint statement issued by President Kennedy and Prime Minister Nehru, which indicated that space cooperation was among the areas of US/India relationships that were discussed. Frutkin was so determined that this multilateral project should work that he devised alternative arrangements for giving India the Arcas sounding rockets either by “declassification of Arcas or by provision of the classified Arcas under suitable waivers and guarantees.”46

When TERLS became operational with the launching of foreign sounding rockets Sarabhai actively sought to advance the field by nurturing the development of space technology in India incrementally. Needless to say, without external assis­tance and training it would have been extremely difficult for India to have built a sounding rocket program at this early stage. In the early 1960s, when rockets had attained the capability of launching satellites, Sarabhai was still developing small sounding rockets. This effort has to be understood within his larger picture of developing a nucleus of capable scientists and technologists around the essentials of rocketry, which would eventually help India if a path was taken to indigenize launch vehicles. Sarabhai noted that “when a nation succeeds in setting up a sci­entific program with sounding rockets, it develops the nucleus of a new culture where a large group of persons in diverse activities learns to work together for the accomplishment of a single objective.”47 Also, in August 1968, for the first time a concrete effort was made by the United Nations to host an international confer­ence on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in Vienna. Leading scientists from around the world attended the conference and reported about the activities carried out during the first decade of the space age and the plans for the future. For many developing countries in Latin America and in the Asian region, the space age dawned at Vienna.48 Founding fathers of many developing countries’ space programs saw the immense promise of space science and technologies for socioeconomic development. Sarabhai was the scientific chairman at the confer­ence and in his presentation he talked of there being a “totality about the process of development which involves not only advanced technology and hardware but imaginative planning of supply and consumption centers, of social organization and management, to leapfrog from a state of backwardness and poverty.”49

The first step in that direction was directed toward the indigenous production of sounding rockets and complementary subsystems—scientific payloads, instru­mentation, telemetry, and ground systems. As a result of this conscious attempt, Thumba during the early 1960s witnessed both the transnational traffic of scien­tific and technological experts and the mushrooming of new firms, facilities, and institutions. A Rocket Propellant Plant (RPP) and Rocket Fabrication Facility (RFP) were established in Thumba. The indigenous production of sounding rockets was gradually scaled up to a satellite launch vehicle that could place a small satellite in low-earth orbit in 1980. Parallel skills were also acquired in sat­ellite technology. A step in the direction of participating in the evolving global satellite communications system was taken through the establishment of the Experimental Satellite Communication Earth Station (ESCES) by INCOSPAR in Ahmedabad with assistance from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)—the executive agency of the project. The equipment came from National Electronics Corporation (NEC) of Japan. Through an agreement with NASA this earth station participated in the Application Technology Satellite (ATS-2) Test Plan. ESCES was also foreseen by officials at NASA, the UN, and INCOSPAR as a node for training scientists and engineers from several developing countries in the field of satellite communication and related technologies.50 When Sarabhai became the head of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, after the tragic death of Homi J. Bhabha in an air crash over Mont Blanc in 1966, he was himself think­ing of how best to use nuclear power for development needs. By associating itself with the tenets of modernization the nascent space group was able to convince the Indian government of the potential of the space program for socioeconomic benefits and thereby extract financial support for their efforts.

ISRO was formed on August 15, 1969. By this time several other institu­tional developments had been initiated by Sarabhai and a concrete ten-year plan for future nuclear and space activities was brought out, entitled the Profile for the Decade. This 40-odd-page booklet was produced by the Department of Atomic Energy—mainly Sarabhai and his cohorts. The Profile stated that

the principal objectives of the space programme in India are to develop indigenous

competence for designing and building sophisticated hardware involved in space

technology including rockets and satellites for scientific research and practical applications, the use of these systems for providing point-to-point communication and a national television hook-up through a direct broadcast synchronous satellite, and the applications of satellites for meteorology and for remote sensing of earth resources.51

NASA Prepares for Collaboration

International participation in the space station was not universally welcomed inside NASA. The benefits were easily defined. International partners would provide dollars—perhaps as much as 12 percent of the costs of the development program by ESA and by Canada, and $100 million annually by Japan.18 They would also provide added political robustness, and confirm to skeptics that there was merit to NASA’s claim that the time had come to develop the station. There were drawbacks too, though.19 Kenneth Pedersen tackled the issue head-on.

Pedersen was keen to get other countries involved in the space station from the outset. In January 1982 he called a meeting of potential space station part­ners at the Johnson Space Center. Each participant was invited to undertake Phase A (conceptual) studies at their own expense to determine what the mission of such a station should be. NASA’s partners were not being asked “to contribute mere pieces to a U. S. conceived, designed and managed programme but to join with NASA in developing and operating an international space complex fitted to their collective requirements.”20 This is what had gone wrong in post-Apollo. As Pedersen explained to the director of NASA’s Space Station Task Force, he objected strongly to encouraging partners to get involved technologically and financially in Phase A studies like those currently under way, either of separable components (like a sortie module or a tug, in post-Apollo), or of an integrated system (like the shuttle itself).21 This was because he had noticed that, as post – Apollo had evolved, NASA’s priorities had changed. It preferred collaboration in the use of space, not in joint engineering projects. It had concluded that European industry was five-ten years behind that in the United States. It did not want to depend on foreign countries for critical parts of the shuttle. It did not want the tug to use liquid propellants, as Europe was proposing. As a result in 1972 the US government found itself in the embarrassing position “of having to walk back from the European perception of the cooperative possibilities” in the program, creating suspicion and distrust that still persisted in some quar- ters.22 The mistake would not be repeated. Foreign partners should focus their work during Phase A studies on mission requirements rather than hardware con­tributions. All cooperation should be managed through NASA Headquarters, and should be exclusively with representatives from foreign governments, who would keep their national industries informed of developments. Foreign visi­tors to field centers were to be discouraged for fear that they would become embroiled in intercenter rivalry over mission concepts. There was to be no for­mal industry teaming.23

To build domestic support Pedersen emphasized that NASA should retain close contact with all agencies that had foreign policy responsibilities—and there were many, including the State Department, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Defense. The DoD was likely to be particularly important, since, thanks to SDI, “the interest and debate over the militarization of space is at an all-time high—much more intense than at the time of post-Apollo planning activities.” Pedersen surmised that “the question of how military involvement would infringe on access rights to the sta­tion” was likely to be “in the end the single most important factor influencing foreign participation.”24 Opposition to this would probably be least in Canada, who did not object to the DoD’s use of the Remote Manipulator System that it had built for the shuttle. By contrast, although Japan was eager to join in the sta­tion, feeling that it had missed a key opportunity by not joining in post-Apollo, the science minister of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party had already warned NASA that its participation would be “unavoidably narrowed” if the program had a large military component. The situation in Europe depended on the coun­try concerned. Pedersen felt that this thorny issue was best dealt with by “work­ing to accommodate both civil and military uses within the basic design of the space station, so that one does not make the other impossible.”

In August 1982 Pedersen had little new to add to the guidelines for control­ling technology transfer that had emerged in the post-Apollo debate. He favored cooperative agreements for discrete hardware pieces with minimal interfaces. He also emphasized that this was an increasingly sensitive issue in the administra­tion. It was essential for NASA to remain in close contact with the export control community. Increasing evidence that the Soviet Union was engaged in a major, centrally coordinated effort to gain access to American high technology by any means possible had led to “closer application of existing guidelines and review of appropriate future steps in staunching the flow of advanced technology.”25 Space industries in Europe were also stronger than they had been in the early 1970s, and Europe had just acquired independent access to space by qualify­ing its Ariane launcher in December 1981. In short, as McCurdy puts it, as regards cross-border knowledge flows, the guidelines laid down by Pedersen in 1982 “reaffirmed the traditional conservative values that had governed interna­tional participation within NASA for more than twenty years.”26 By building the core elements of the station, by excluding collaborators from making con­tributions to the critical path, and by keeping interfaces as clean as possible, the asymmetry in technical and financial contributions to the project was built into the hardware of the station from the start.