Category NASA in the World

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.

Winning Hearts and Minds

SITE offered the State Department twin benefits: a benign technological tool to offset communist China’s influence, and a technology that would help to bring literacy and development to the rural population. This was perfectly in line with what the communication scholars and media experts were promoting in the early 1960s, the idea that television and other media of mass communica­tion would help national development. Stalwarts in communication and devel­opment studies such as Daniel Lerner, Wilbur Schramm, and Everett M. Rogers based their theories of development and media efficacy on Walt Rostow’s influ­ential Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto.19 In the book Rostow stressed that the economic and technological development achieved by the Western nations were the result of increased media use. If the developing countries could follow the path of modernization initiated by the West, they would leapfrog centuries of inaction and underdevelopment and catch up with the modernized West.20 Rostow who later became the national security adviser to President Lyndon Johnson, was himself interested in putting “television sets in the thatch hutches of the world” to defeat both tradition and communism with the spectacle of consumption.21 The political value of communication satel­lites was also emphasized by Arthur C. Clark:

Living as I do in the Far East, I am constantly reminded of the struggle between the Western World and the USSR for the uncommitted millions of Asia. The printed word plays only a small part in this battle for the minds of the largely illiterate population and even radio is limited in range and impact. But when line of sight TV transmission becomes possible through satellites directly overhead, the propaganda effect may be decisive. . . the impact upon the peoples of Asia and Africa may be overwhelming. It may well determine whether Russian or English is the main language of the future. The TV satellite is mightier than the ICBM.22

India was particularly appropriate for a satellite experiment in the direct broadcasting of TV. First, there was no existing TV distribution network, which could be utilized by conventional means. The population was distributed rela­tively homogeneously throughout the subcontinent rather than concentrated in a few large cities easily reached by conventional TV, and there was a high level of Indian government support for this kind of experiment. This contrasted with other developing countries, for instance, Brazil. There, a substantial portion of the population was concentrated in coastal cities, all of which already possessed TV networks, while only the scattered inland population lacked TV. So, India stood apart as an ideal laboratory for testing the technology. Wallace Joyce, in the International Scientific and Technological Affairs of the State Department, particularly liked Webb’s idea. It had the potential for India to exert “regional leadership” in space-related educational TV for development purposes in the surrounding Asian and other modernizing regions.23

For Frutkin, the instructional television project was a constructive step forward in cooperation between one of the world’s superpowers and a progressive, neu­tral, developing nation. “For other developing countries, it should serve on a non cost basis to test the values, the feasibility, and the requirements of a multi-pur­pose tool which could be critical to accelerating their progress in an increasingly technological world.”24 There is “some measure of generalization, hyperbole, and technological misconception” when it came to direct broadcasting of television, remarked Frutkin. In order to realistically consider the problems and technologi­cal hurdles associated with direct broadcasting he sought an “actual experience

Winning Hearts and Minds

Figure 12.2 Artist’s conception of ATS-6 support. Source: NASA.

with the medium.” The experiment represented a “rarely grasped opportunity to use modern technology so as to leapfrog historical development stages.”25

The Indian space experts too were interested in exploring the potentialities of TV as a means of mass communication in a developing country. In 1967, only Delhi, the capital city of India, had television transmission services. The Indian broadcast planners organized under the Ministry of Information and Public Broadcasting (MIPB) wanted to extend the television services by first focusing on the cities and gradually extending it to rural villages through transmitters. Seeing the cities to be already “information rich” through various other media, Vikram Sarabhai, in contrast to the broadcast agency—which blamed the space agency for unnecessarily encroaching on their domain—wanted the villages to receive the high technology first. In June 1967 Sarabhai sent a team to NASA to study the prospects of using a satellite over a conventional transmission links. After looking at various options, the visitors focused in on a “hybrid system for rebroadcast sta­tions for high population areas, and a satellite for interconnection and transmis­sion to low-population density areas.” The interaction between NASA, Indian actors, and the business corporations in America planted the seed for the Indian National Satellite (INSAT), which was developed during the early 1980s.26

To test the efficiency of such a massive system for the entire Indian pop­ulation officials at NASA and the State Department conceptualized a limited one-year SITE project using the ATS-6 satellite (figure 12.2). The SITE project was not without domestic resistance, however. To reach a consensus among dif­ferent agencies Sarabhai set up an ad hoc National Satellite Telecommunications Committee (NASCOM) in 1968. SITE was finally approved after an extensive debate in the parliament.

An agreement was signed between NASA and ISRO in 1969 wherein NASA agreed to provide this satellite for one year. NASA would provide the space segment while ISRO took charge of the ground segment and programs. NASA helped ISRO by offering training facilities to its engineers at different NASA facilities and by helping in the procurement of critical components when these were urgently required at short notice. Numerous ISRO-NASA meetings held in India and America helped sort out interface problems and in acquainting each other with the progress of the SITE project. In order to plan the for the year-long project, the Indian space agency undertook a small experiment called Krishi Darshan (Agricultural TV Program). Around 80 television sets were placed in rural villages around Delhi to test “software development, receiver maintenance, and audience information utilization.”27 To prepare for the future, joint studies were also done by ISRO engineers with NASA and private corpora­tions such as Hughes Aircraft, and General Electric for configuring systems for INSAT. In 1970, ISRO engineers undertook a study at Lincoln Labs at MIT for spacecraft studies of INSAT. Sarabhai planned INSAT as a follow on after the SITE experiment.28

Hughes, Loral, the PRC, and the Strom Thurmond Act

In December 1992 the Chinese Long March 2E rocket failed to launch the Hughes-built Australian Optus B2 telecommunications satellite due to aerody­namic buffeting of the launcher’s fairing.14 Neither party would at first admit responsibility. Hughes conducted an independent investigation, and divulged information to the PRC suggesting ways in which it should modify the fair­ing by strengthening its structure. At a subsequent successful launch in August 1994 observers from Hughes noted that the fairing had been modified simply by adding rivets. This proved to be insufficient. The next launch of a Hughes satellite, the Asian Apstar 2 in January 1995, failed for the same reason as had the launch of Optus 2. This time the Chinese members of a joint accident review committee agreed that the cause of the failure was due to weaknesses in their fairing. The marginal improvement achieved by adding rivets was not sufficient to withstand the additional stress caused by the strong upper-altitude winds that buffeted the payload when it was launched in winter. Suitable corrective mea­sures were taken along the lines first proposed by Hughes—corrective measures that, some feared, would be invaluable for improving nose cones that protected nuclear warheads on Chinese ballistic missiles.

A Loral Intelsat 708 satellite was destroyed in the Long March commercial launch failure in February 1996. This time the PRC engineers quickly admitted responsibility. They suspected that the launch failure was probably due to a fault in the inner part of the inertial measurement unit (IMU) of the Long March 3B rocket guidance system, though telemetry data did not fully confirm this. The insurance company that had agreed to cover the imminent launch of an Apstar satellite (typically for about $50 million) demanded that an independent review committee be established. The committee comprised representatives from the PRC, Hughes, Loral, and Daimler Benz, and retired experts that had worked for British Aerospace, General Dynamics, and Intelsat. It placed great weight on the telemetry data, and suggested that the follow-up frame, rather than the inner part of the IMU (the preferred explanation by Chinese engineers), was respon­sible for the accident. The PRC confirmed that, indeed, a failure in the follow-up electrical servo unit was the cause of the launch failure.

Loral faxed a preliminary report of this finding to the PRC in May 1996. The State Department learned that the firm had disclosed information that some thought would significantly improve the guidance system on Chinese missiles, without first having it reviewed for sensitive content, and without an export license.

The Strom Thurmond Act signed into law in October 1998 took steps to regulate these practices. It devoted 6 pages out of 360 (Title XV. B) to a number of measures designed to control the export of satellite technology to the PRC.15 One of its most fundamental innovations (in Section 1513) was to remove the president’s authority to change the jurisdictional status of satellites and related items even if they had civilian applications. These were, and still are (August 2012), “the only dual-use items that are required by law to be controlled as defense articles.” Thus whereas normally “the President has the authority to authorize the easing of controls on items and related technologies that transition to predominately civil uses or that become widely available,” this did not now apply to satellite-related items. The export of all “satellites and related items” were put back on the US Munitions List and subject to the ITAR, and require Congressional action to remove them.16 The Strom Thurmond Act also called for new bureaucratic procedures to ensure compliance. It stipulated that any export licenses had to be accompanied by a Technology Transfer Control Plan that had been approved by the secretary of defense and an “encryption technol­ogy transfer control plan approved by the Director of the National Security Agency.” In response to accusations that security on the launch pad in China (often in the hands of private contractors) had been dismal while the satellite was being installed, the DoD was also called upon to monitor all aspects of the launch of an American satellite in a foreign country, including analyses of launch failure, “to ensure that no unauthorized transfer of technology occurs, includ­ing technical assistance and technical data.”

In March 2003, Hughes Electronics Corporation and Boeing Satellite Systems, charged with 123 violations of export laws, admitted that they had not obtained the required licenses for their dealings with the PRC. The firms acknowledged “the nature and seriousness of the offenses charged by the Department of State, including the harm such offenses could cause to the security and foreign policy interests of the United States.”17 Their $32 million civil penalty was the largest in an arms export case.

The Technological Component: The Hardware

SITE was conceived as a classic communication system consisting of an informa­tion source, a channel, a receiver, and the destination. The operation and execu­tion of the experiment was dependent on a network of complex technological systems. Occupying the central node in the whole network was the ATS-6. It functioned as a relay station for receiving and sending signals originating in India; in other words it acted as a channel of communication between the trans­mitter and the receiver. The retransmitted signals from ATS-6 were received on the ground by a Direct Reception Systems (DRS). The United States provided the satellite while the full responsibility for the ground segment—earth stations, DRS, and television programs (software)—fell on India.

The Cox Report

The declassified version of the Cox Report (or just the Cox Report in what follows) released on May 25, 1999, created a sensation. An editorial in the Washington Post caught the mood that day: it quoted Cox as saying that “[n]o other country has succeeded in stealing so much from the United States,” with serious and ongoing damage to the country.18 The Republican House majority leader Dick Armey said, “It’s very scary, and basically what it says is the Chinese now have the capability of threatening us with our own nuclear technology.”19 The ensuing sense of urgency led to calls for a transformation in the legal and administrative structure of international cooperation. Tighter controls on hard­ware and knowledge flows were imperative.

The Cox Report was a three-volume, 872-page glossy publication filled with photographs suitably labeled and a punchy overview that used color and other techniques to highlight key findings and to have them spring to the eye.20 Though most of the committee’s time was devoted to the Hughes and Loral cases, in the latter stages of its hearings it branched out into the “theft” of other sensitive technologies, notably for nuclear warhead design. Volume 1 of the report focused on this domain and on the diversion of High Performance Computers (600 of which had been sold to the PRC) from civilian to nuclear weapons applications. Volume 2 was devoted to the contacts between engineers at Hughes and Loral and their Chinese counterparts, particularly after the launch failures. It also had a section devoted to launch-site security in the PRC or, rather, the lack thereof. The short technological core of the third volume dealt with the efforts made by the PRC to improve their manufacturing pro­cesses by acquiring machine tool and jet engine technologies.

The report claimed that the PRC had “stolen design information on the United States’ most advanced thermonuclear weapons,” including the neutron bomb, from the four major weapons labs (Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Oak Ridge, and Sandia).21 This would give China design information on such devices “on a par with our own,” and would materially assist the country “in building its next generation of mobile ICBMs, which may be tested this year,” with “a significant effect on the regional balance of power.” China had also “stolen or illegally obtained U. S. missile and space technology that improves the PRC’s military and intelligence capabilities.” The information passed by US satellite manufacturers to their Chinese clients—without obtaining the requisite licenses, even though they knew they were needed—had “improved the reliabil­ity of PRC rockets useful for civilian and military purposes,” including ballistic missiles. These security lapses were compounded by poor security at launch pads and by the liberal sharing of technical information with foreign brokers and underwriters of satellite insurance. The knowledge thus acquired would not only strengthen China’s military capability, but the PRC was also “one of the lead­ing proliferators of complete ballistic missile systems and missile components in the world,” and had helped improve weapons programs in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea.

Two factors had facilitated these major breaches in the security wall. First, there were recent changes in international and domestic export control regimes that had reduced the ability to control the flow of militarily useful technology.

Supplementing this, there was China’s determination to obtain advanced US military technology, which it had actively sought for at least the past two decades. As the report put it, “To acquire U. S. technology the PRC uses a variety of techniques, including espionage, controlled commercial entities, and a network of individuals and organizations that engage in a vast array of contacts with sci­entists, business people, and academics.” In short, the Cox Report emphasized, “The PRC has mounted a widespread effort to obtain U. S. military technologies by any means—legal or illegal.”

As regards space policy, the Cox Report urged the executive branch to “aggressively implement the Satellite Export Control Provisions”22 of the Strom Thurmond Act. It demanded that the State Department be responsible for licensing the export of satellites and any satellite launch failure investigations. The Department of Defense, not satellite firms, was to be responsible for secu­rity at foreign launch sites, and had to establish appropriate monitoring proce­dures to ensure that no information of use to its missile programs was passed to the PRC. The report also insisted that “export controls are applied in full to communications among satellite manufacturers, purchasers, and the insurance industry, including communications after launch failures.”23 Recognizing that the American firms were seeking launch providers abroad because the United States had insufficient domestic launch capability (itself a result of the decision to cut back the production of expendable launchers so as to secure a market for the shuttle), the Select Committee also recommended that steps be taken to stimu­late the nation’s “commercial space-launch capacity and competition.”24

The Cox Report proved highly controversial. Joseph Cirincione, the direc­tor of the Carnegie Non-Proliferation Project, objected that the report had “taken a real problem and hyper-inflated it for political purposes.”25 The Center for International Security at Stanford University asked four experts (Alastair Iain Johnston, W. K. H. Panofsky, Marco di Capua, and Lewis R. Franklin) to review the report from different angles. Throughout their critique the authors stressed that the analysis was marred by “imprecise writing, sloppy research, and ill-informed speculation,” as Johnston put it.26 In a vigorous riposte Nicholas Rostow, a staff director on the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in turn identified what he called “50 Factual Errors in the Four Essays” that comprised the “Panofsky” critique.27 And toward the end of 1999 the National Academies’ Committee on Balancing Scientific Openness and National Security published its findings on the risks posed by foreign interactions with the national weapons laboratories.28

None of the critics denied that the Cox Report had put its finger on a serious issue. But they objected that it had incorrectly elevated security leaks to a privi­leged position in its analysis of knowledge flows between the United States and China: there were many other ways for PRC scientists and engineers to access the cutting edge of the American research system. They felt that it had incor­rectly assessed China’s strategic goals, and the urgency with which it sought to update its obsolete nuclear and missile programs.29 Third, they contended that the combination of these two erroneous convictions had created a climate of crisis in which blanket restrictions on international exchange were being called for. This would be counterproductive and do the United States more harm than good. Tighter controls were thus not the answer to improved security: rather, what was needed was increased funding for R & D, which ensured that the United States always had the technological edge over its rivals. The Committee on Balancing Scientific Openness and National Security took a similar line, “The world is awash in scientific discoveries and technological innovations,” it wrote. “If the United States is to remain the world’s technological leader, it must remain deeply engaged in international dialogue, despite the possibility of the illicit loss of information.”30

This is the background against which the demand for a more rigorous appli­cation of export control regulations was specifically written into Public Law 106-391, NASA’s Authorization Act of2000 that was passed by both the House and the Senate. This act encouraged international cooperation in space explora­tion and scientific activities when it served American interests, and was “carried out in manner consistent with United States export control laws” (Sect 2.6 (B) (iii)). The point on regulation was picked up again later in a section of the act that twinned international cooperation with American competitiveness. After laying down specific recommendations as regards space cooperation with the PRC, the text went on to stipulate (Sect. 126 (3)) that NASA’s inspector general, in consultation with the appropriate agencies of the U. S. government,

shall conduct an annual audit of the policies and procedures of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration with respect to the export of technol­ogies and the transfer of scientific and technical information, to assess the extent to which [the NASA] is carrying out its activities in compliance with Federal export control laws and with paragraph (2) [relating to the PRC].31

NASA had already institutionalized more formalized and systematic procedures for the implementation of export controls in the mid-1990s. P. L. 106-391, however, sent a strong signal that Congress was keeping an eye on the agency to ensure that compliance with ITAR was enforced. The effects have been felt throughout the centers, by NASA contractors such as JPL and by the agency’s international partners.

To summarize. The combined effect of the Strom Thurmond Act, the Cox Report, and P. L.106-391 has been to move export controls in the space sec­tor to the very foreground of NASA and the State Department’s activities in the international domain. To be sure it was already evident in the mid-1990s that NASA’s management of export control needed to be tightened up. The ambiguity over whether or not ITAR or EAR applied to a space-related item was amplified by an internal organization that was fragmented, with different sections dealing more or less independently with the different regulatory sys­tems. A single export control office replaced these in 1994/95. Its importance was fueled by fears that the PRC was gaining ready access to sensitive American defense-related technology. These were generalized by Congress, and embodied in legislation that demanded that NASA and US entities take the restrictions imposed by the ITAR seriously not only in dealings with the PRC but also with traditional allies and partners (subject to some variation for NATO members, for example).

Over the next decade the effects of these restrictions were increasingly felt and resented by NASA’s partners, as well by its contractors and US business. For example, John Schumacher, an associate administrator for external relations at NASA who moved into the aerospace industry in the 1990s, stressed the diffi­culty of deciding if an innovative technology fell under the ITAR or not. Taking the hypothetical example of a nano-ceramic coating for engine blades he noted that neither the firm nor the regulatory authority was sure whether something like this it fell under the ITAR or not. This was particularly frustrating for smaller companies with international clients, like his own, and often led them to “walk back from the edge,” and withdraw from regulation-prone innovative research.

NASA contractors such as JPL are also subject to the ITAR, and have estab­lished their own in-house ITAR office to ensure compliance, and need to estab­lish Technical Assistance Agreements (TAA) before they can provide defense services to their partners. A TAA is a contract between the parties involved in the technology transfer. It references the ITAR, and defines items such as the roles of the contracting parties, what technology and services are covered, who can access the ITAR-controlled technology, restrictions or exemptions on how the technology can be used, and how long a foreign entity can have access to the technology. Even with these procedures in place there can be friction. Robert Mitchell, a project manager on the Cassini-Huygens mission (see chapter 2 ) , explains:

[T]he most common thing that comes up now is a problem with an instru­ment, a European-provided instrument. An example would be the magnetom­eter, which was provided by and still funded and operated by an organization in the U. K. The magnetometer will from time to time have issues in terms of how it interfaces with the onboard main central processor on the Cassini spacecraft, and there frequently are questions about whether the problem is in our computer, or a problem in the interface, or a problem in the instrument. And of those three things, we understand the first two far better than they do, and we understand the third probably not as well as they do, but we know it pretty well. . . Now, for us to give them technical assistance in resolving the problem is clearly prohibited except in the presence of a TAA, and even with that we’ve been cautioned to tread carefully. So when they have a problem— and about once a year they do—we work with them, we get it taken care of, but everybody is very conscious of this issue.32

Charles Elachi, the current director of JPL, sees the effect on interpersonal rela­tionships with colleagues abroad as one of the most distressing feature of the ITAR. It undermines the freewheeling climate of mutual trust and respect that is essential to the success of an international project. As he said in an interview in June 2009:

[T]he bigger impact, in my point of view, was more on the interaction between people, more than actually getting a piece of hardware, because now if we want to talk with the ESA, we have to be careful what we talk about and so on. It’s not an issue of do we send a transistor from the U. S. to Europe, even if that’s a factor. But it’s really the interaction, and, I’m guessing that’s where maybe people like us are unhappy, and that’s where I’m unhappy also about

this thing, because the strength was in building trust and good relationship and exchange of ideas, and that kind of put a limitation on doing that.33

David Southwood, ESA’s then director of science and robotic exploration, was blunter in an interview in 2009: “Those of us who want to cooperate with the United States are frustrated by the level of regulation and nonsense we’re put through, and indeed the problem we face of trying to explain to people that if we really are cooperating we have to have an understanding of what something does in the partner’s piece of equipment.”34

There can be no doubt that the current (August 2012) ITAR regime is trans­forming the dynamics of international collaboration with the United States. It is not doing so simply by placing tight constraints on the hardware that can be shared with partners: as this book has made evident, in the domain of satellites and launchers, the components that can be acquired by others has always been subject to close scrutiny. By reaching deep into the daily workings of even non­military cooperation involving scientists and engineers in academia, government laboratories and industry, the regime is making international collaboration more onerous bureaucratically and more risky institutionally, as well as undermining the trust and mutual respect between people that is so essential to the success of any joint project.

It must be stressed that NASA itself is not as tightly bound by ITAR as is a contractor like JPL. Like its contractors it requires a hardware license to export technology, but unlike them it does not require a TAA to supply defense services to foreign partners once an international agreement is in place (that agreement serves as the TAA).35 The agency has also been engaged for over a decade in discussions with the State Department on ways to improve the implementation of the ITAR, particularly as regards the need for TAAs by its contractors. At the time of writing extensive interagency discussions have also led to major propos­als for export control reform. They are guided by the philosophy that the United States must focus limited resources on the threats that matter most, and put in place streamlined procedures, combined with effective safeguards, to control sensitive items appropriately. It is proposed that commercial satellites be put back on the EAR and be regulated by the Department of Commerce. On one issue there is no reform foreseen: export control policies with respect to the PRC and embargoed countries, like Iran.36

The ATS-6 Satellite

ATS-6 was the most complex and advanced communication satellite in NASA’s Applications Technology Satellite series.29 In 1966 NASA began launching a series of six such satellites manufactured by Fairchild to test and improve satellite com­munications. They were designed to carry out technological, meteorological, scien­tific, and communications research. The last of the series, ATS-6 was the largest, most complicated, and powerful of them all. It was a geosynchronous satellite— the orbital period for the 1,402-kilogram satellite around the globe matched the Earth’s 24-hour rotation so that the ATS-6 remained over the same spot on the earth. It was designed in such a way that it could be moved along the equator using its onboard thrusters to conduct space-based experiments in any region of the globe. In general it served as a powerful rebroadcasting station in space, capable

The ATS-6 Satellite

Figure 12.3 Testing ATS-6.

Source: NASA.

of transmitting signals directly to many small ground stations over a large area (figure 12.3). The prime objectives of ATS-6 missions involved demonstrating a 30-foot deployable antenna in synchronous orbit, providing a three-axis stabi­lized spacecraft with 0.1 degree pointing capability in all three axes, and provid­ing an oriented platform at synchronous altitude for advanced technological and scientific experiments. The SITE was made possible when all of these objectives were achieved.30ATS-6 thus represented the kind of satellite system appropriate for communications within many developing countries, where most of the population lived dispersed in rural areas, rather than in large population centers.31 ATS-6 was launched on May 30, 1974, and it carried approximately 15 scientific experiments in the field of communication, meteorology, and spacecraft stabilization.

From Q to N to H, from Technological Dependence to. Independence

While ISAS was working on the K, L, and M series of solid booster rockets in the early 1960s, NSDC, the precursor of NASDA, worked on solid – and liquid – fuel rockets designated as the JCR (Jet Controlled Rocket) and the LS-C series. Both the JCR and LS-C rockets were two-stage rockets, the first using solid fuels only, the second a combination of solid and liquid fuels. Both were later built into a three-stage Q rocket, which was in turn overtaken by the more pow­erful N (Nippon) launcher built with American help. Work on Q was not entirely wasted, however. Flight-testing of the JCR helped develop the control system of N-1, while a liquid stage from the LSC was later adopted as the second stage of N-1, which made its maiden flight in 1975.

The successful N-1 launch vehicle built after the 1969 agreement comprised three stages. The liquid first stage was adopted from the Thor-Delta Vehicle produced by McDonnell Douglas. The liquid fuel used was LOX and RJ-1 propellants. The engine for this first stage was produced in Japan under license with technological assistance from Rocketdyne. To give added thrust it had three strap-on boosters, Thiokol’s Castor II-TX354-5, which were also produced under license in Japan. The second-stage engine was adopted from the Q rocket, as men­tioned a moment ago, with some American assistance. It used nitrogen tetroxide and Aerozine 50. NASDA wanted to build this stage in Japan indigenously so as to retain some Japanese component and as a platform for building its own stages in future. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) constructed the rocket engines for the second stage. The third-stage motor was imported from the United States.

During the 1970s N-1 launched six satellites into orbit including Kiku 2 (1977), Japan’s first geostationary satellite that was built indigenously based on American technology. It was upgraded for launching heavier satellites up to 350 kilograms and was designated N-2. Following the N series the logical step toward launching heavier application satellites led to the development of the H series of rockets. Preliminary studies on the H began in the mid-1970s and two test flights were conducted in August 1986 and August 1987. The first stage, strap-on boosters, and fairing were manufactured under license and the rest—cryogenic second-stage, inertial guidance system and the third-stage solid motor—were developed indigenously. Thereafter a fully indigenous more advanced rocket called H-II was developed in the mid-1980s with the first test flight on February 4, 1994. Though this was a technological triumph for Japan it was not a commercial success. The launch cost was around $190 million, which was twice the cost of a launch with the European Ariane or American Atlas.42

To overcome the cost problem Japan initiated the H-IIA development pro­gram, with the primary goal of cutting launch costs in half by increasing the launch rate. While Japanese technological independence was a primary purpose of the original H-II program, the overriding commitment to low cost in the H-IIA program led to contracts with ATK Thiokol in Utah, who supplied solid rocket booster technology. Boeing and Man technologies of Germany were also selected to produce core stage tank domes.43 Table 10.2 gives one some idea of the extensive presence of American firms in Japanese launcher development, and the gradual reliance on national industries to provide key components such as guidance and control.