Category NASA in the World

The Organization of This Book

Much of this book concentrates on the first 30-40 years of NASA’s interna­tional collaboration, concluding with brief overviews of the International Space Station and of ITAR today. The aim has been to throw light on the general policies that informed the agency’s actions in select regions of the globe, and to illustrate their application in practice in specific and important cases. The vast scope of NASA’s international activities demanded that choices be made. Those choices, in turn, were constrained by the usual factors: the availability of sources, the capacities and interests of the authors, and the time foreseen to complete the work, which competed with many other responsibilities.

The book is divided into three major sections, and a conclusion. It deals suc­cessively with NASA’s relations with Western Europe, with the Soviet Union and Russia, and with two countries in Asia—Japan and India.

John Krige’s section on Western Europe distinguishes collaboration in space science (chapter 2) from technological collaboration (chapters 3-6). This distinc­tion reflects the very different issues that arise in the two domains. Clean inter­faces and no exchange of funds are relatively easy to respect in space science; the management of knowledge and dollar flows is far more contentious in advanced technological collaboration. Here working with foreign partners engages mul­tiple arms of the administration in NASA’s programmatic affairs—the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, most obviously. It can also raise eyebrows in Congress. For a leading space power like the United States, the desire of some to promote international collaboration by sharing technology is in a state of dynamic equilibrium with the determination of others to deny technology in the interests of national security, economic com­petitiveness, and American global leadership.

Chapter 2 complements national studies of four major Western European coun­tries, Britain, France, Italy, and West Germany, with two more detailed case stud­ies from the ESA period: the International Solar Polar Mission (ISPM) and the Cassini-Huygens planetary probe. The core theme of the national studies, readily and warmly acknowledged by many actors of the day, is NASA’s generosity in catalyzing programs in countries in which the space community was small, indus­trial capacity was minimal, and political will was diffuse or nonexistent. The ISPM project, in which NASA withdrew its satellite from a joint venture with ESA, is important if only because of the shock that the agency’s move caused in Europe. Cassini-Huygens, by contrast, was not only a superb scientific achievement: its sur­vival in Goldin’s NASA, which was committed to “faster, better, cheaper” projects, was a tribute to the ability of international collaboration to protect a mission.

The exchange of sensitive technology is at the core of the next four chapters. The first treats NASA and the State Department’s attempts to save the European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO) from collapse in the mid-1960s, describing their efforts to cope with restrictions on collaboration in this sensitive domain that had been imposed by various national security directives from the White House. The next three chapters are a detailed examination of the lengthy negotiations, initiated by NASA administrator Tom Paine in 1969, to engage Western Europe (and others, notably, Australia and Japan) in the post-Apollo program. This event is important for the light it throws on the perennial conflict between technological sharing and technological denial. It explores the crucial role that the parallel negotiations over the definitive Intelsat agreements played in the discussions between the United States and Europe over launcher avail­ability, and it studies the effects of the eventual decision to limit technological exchange to the barest minimum.

The two chapters by Angelina Long Callahan on the Soviet Union, its collapse, and the emergence of Russia as a major space player span a collaborative regime that might appear to have moved from one extreme to another. Collaboration in the 1960s was, in some respects, arm’s length; the 1990s did indeed bring about increasing dependence on Russia for construction, design, and access to the ISS. However, the notion of a wholesale shift between two extremes of criticality is to some extent artificial, an artifact of Cold War thinking. Historiography has often eclipsed parallel efforts made to maintain dialog and some measure of trust. What we learn from this section is that, embedded in the upheavals that have marked the history of the Soviet empire in the past 50 years, and the tension that has so marked its relationships with the rest of the free world, there lies a slow, cumulative attempt to build durable relationships in space. NASA policymakers often initiated these efforts; the Soviet Union typically made critical technological contributions. Low-key initiatives—meteorology, the Bion satellites, atmospheric sciences—and the odd space spectacular like the ASTP (chapter 7) were a forerunner of the full­blown effort in technological collaboration in the 1990s when Russia’s experience in human spaceflight in the Shuttle-Mir and ISS program led to its integration into the core of the space station (chapter 8). It is emphasized that that process was one element in the sweeping measures embarked on by the US administration to rebuild and to reintegrate a transformed group of nations into the capitalist world economy, dismantling their military infrastructure and sealing their allegiance to international agreements concerning the proliferation of military technology.

The third section of the book, written by Ashok Maharaj, looks at NASA’s rela­tionships with Japan and India. A longitudinal overview of each (chapters 9 and 11) is supplemented with case studies of particularly important joint ventures. The first is the controversial decision, spearheaded by the State Department, that the United States should share Thor-Delta launcher technology with Japan (chapter 10). The second case study is the marvelous SITE project that was so near and dear to Frutkin’s heart: the use of an ATS-6 communications technology satellite to beam educational and other programs to about 2,200 villages in rural India (chapter 12).

As I have said, there is an inherent contradiction in NASA’s twin missions to maintain leadership and to foster international collaboration. By helping others acquire space capabilities NASA at once enhances the capacity, visibility, and reach of the US space program, and contributes to the efforts of those who may eventually compete with it. The dilemma is particularly acute when collabora­tion involves managing dual-use technologies that are of both commercial and military significance. Chapters 13 and 14 discuss the contradictory forces now at work on international collaboration in the civilian aerospace sector. The new interdependence between partners embodied in the International Space Station (ISS) is contrasted with the stricter implementation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) in the rest of the civilian space sector. It is impossi­ble to know which of the two models—closer interdependence or retreat behind high technological walls—will prevail. The recent tectonic shifts in the global world order, the emergence of new space powers, many of them perceived as a threat to the United States, the increasing pressure for the commercialization of space, and the growing importance of space technologies as force-multipliers in war define the contours of a transition whose future it is difficult to predict.

The First Major Barrier to Participation: Data and. Technology Transfer

Export licenses were required for sharing sensitive technology in the shuttle program. This included items that facilitated national comsat abilities (specifi­cally picked out for tight control in NSAM 338), including the acquisition of launchers, or that contributed to independent national strategic weapons sys­tems (NSAM 294, under review in terms of NSSM 71). The limits to what was permissible were quickly tested by McDonnell Douglas in April 1970. The firm wanted an export license allowing it to share “A Proposal to Accomplish Phase B Shuttle Program” with potential industrial partners in England, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, and Japan.32 NASA wanted the Office of Munitions Control in the State Department to accord a license to the firm. The Department of Defense wanted the export license withheld.

NASA recognized that McDonnell Douglas’s Proposal contained technical material in a number of potentially sensitive areas—“thermal protection, aero­dynamics, avionics, structures, cryogenics, materials, propulsion, flight control, and so forth.” However it claimed that most of this material was available in the open literature. It would not significantly contribute in any way to either strategic delivery or comsat capability “beyond that already existing in the receiving coun­try, nor would its release be prejudicial to the interests of the United States.”33 It insisted too that the mere release of this documentation had to be distinguished from the possible transfer of hardware in any subsequent phase of active foreign participation. A license now was essential if a foreign entity was to be able to evaluate whether or not to participate in the post-Apollo program at all.

The Department of Defense felt that McDonnell Douglas’s proposal provided a “broad display of advanced technological capability” that seemed to be “well in excess of what might be required to secure international participation in the space shuttle.” It recognized that the shuttle itself had “no significant strategic delivery implications at this point.” Yet it feared that “an unrestricted flow of the best US technology in a number of areas would in time lead to concern regarding the development of independent strategic delivery capabilities.” It wanted NASA to secure government-to-government agreement on areas of international participa­tion before industry was involved. That agreement would provide a legal umbrella under which the flow of technology from US contractors to foreign industrial partners could be “properly managed on a case-by-case basis.”34 As NASA’s legal counsel explained, the DoD did not dispute the fact that the information con­tained in the McDonnell-Douglas proposal was available in the open literature, and it agreed that the shuttle itself had no strategic delivery implications: “it objects on the grounds that the mere flow of technology would be harmful.”35

The restrictions on technology transfer frustrated Frutkin. He pointed out to Paine that these objections overlooked the fact that “military missile technology has been widely exported under various rationales and with certain assurances.” He compiled a list of “controversial” technology transfer cases with Europe that were still pending in the Office of Munitions Control, one going back to September 1969 for technical assistance for Helios (see chapter 2 ) .36 In July 1970 he wrote, despairingly, that “the present attitudes and practices of the DOD and Department of State fraternity concerned with the export of unclas­sified technology in the space area would present virtually insuperable problems for us and make it extremely difficult to get satisfactory solutions in such a time frame as to establish credibility with the Europeans.”37 He called for a proce­dure that “should be as automatic as possible, should not be established on a case-by-case basis since this would entail unacceptable delays and uncertainties, should be premised on the establishment of adequate safeguards (guarantees and assurances) rather than on excluding particular items of technology, and should apply to NASA as well as to its contractors.”38 This framework for collaboration required, in Frutkin’s view, a radical shift in perception by those who drew back from technological sharing: rather than see the risks to the United States they should focus on the benefits. These were several.

First, Frutkin stressed that “our principal objective will be to obtain a foreign technical contribution, rather than to provide technology. Thus we do not mean to export tug technology; we expect foreign cooperation to develop it for us.” Of course he recognized that “anything we do by way of serious cooperation with other countries will inevitably enhance their capabilities should they wish to divert them to military purposes.”39 The choice was therefore between no technological exchange at all, or some degree of exchange with safeguards built into it.

Frutkin was emphatic that even though European participation would involve a degree of technological exchange, it would be biased in favor of the United States in two ways. The United States would get hardware from Europe, say, contributions to the avionics system of the tug. Europe, on the other hand would mostly have access to US technology through documentation and visits, a “second-order kind of exposure” that would not “produce the level of know­how that working in the technology imparts, nor that receiving actual opera­tional hardware does.” In any case, the “total technology base” of foreigners was “so much smaller than ours that they have much less opportunity to assimilate and apply technology they get from us” than is the converse.40 In sum, wrote Frutkin, “the risk we take in broadening the flow of technology to our Western alliance partners is a very, very small risk and totally appropriate to the gain that we make in international participation and in direct program contribution.”41 To strengthen the case NASA studied the extent of technology transfer in different collaborative programs, canvassing the views of experienced officials in the agency, the DoD, and in major US aerospace corporations.42 The study considered two extreme cases: certain parts of the shuttle, and the separable tug. Regarding the first, it concluded that Europeans could usefully contribute to the development of the vertical tail of the shuttle and to some elements of the attitude control system to the advantage of both partners. The ensuing “transfer of critical technology to Europe would be a relatively small percentage of the program value.” At the other extreme, the tug, even though a more indepen­dent system, would call for considerable technology transfer. It comprised two main components, a propulsion module and an avionics module. Europe lacked experience in some aspects of the former (e. g., cryogenic storage for long peri­ods). It had only “limited experience and know-how in navigation, guidance, power distribution, instrumentation and data management systems” as required by the avionics module. To control technology flows here the United States could furnish subsystem components rather than state-of-the-art technological know-how. Reviewing the situation, NASA suggested that technology transfer to Europe, be it through “integrated” or “coordinated” participation, was rela­tively unimportant and controllable. What Europeans sought most of all was program management and systems engineering experience rather than specific tasks. In any event before it was agreed to collaborate on such tasks the United States would need to make a more refined study of European capabilities so as to identify strengths, from which domestic corporations could benefit, and weak­nesses, where technology transfer had to be carefully controlled.

Aerospace leaders agreed that technology transfer posed few dangers.43 They favored partnership on the grounds that it would stabilize the program absent an “assurance of adequate and steady funding” from Congress and that it would curb the “stimulation of independent and competing programs in Europe.” They were also persuaded that the program would be so challenging that the US aerospace industry would benefit far more from its 90 percent share than the Europeans would from their 10 percent effort, emerging “from the post-Apollo enterprise even further ahead of the Europeans than when we started.”44

On July 17, 1970, National Security Decision Memorandum (NSDM) 72 was released.45 It addressed the “Exchange of Technical Data between the United States and the International Space Community.” It established an interagency group, to be chaired by a NASA representative, to review policy and proce­dure for technical data exchange between the United States and foreign gov­ernments and agencies, beginning with Europe. And it specifically asked that those guidelines and procedures “be designed to provide for timely and effective interchange of technical information between the parties, while at the same time insuring the protection of U. S. national interest.”

In response to this directive, an “Ad-hoc Interagency Group on NSDM-72” was established to formalize policy. It had the important role of both strength­ening NASA’s leadership, and of providing a forum for interagency consulta­tion that could help avoid internal “polarization” and protect NASA from being “pictured as advocating giving away national values while the other agencies strive to protect them as required by Statute and Executive Order.”46 The group met weekly in August, it was chaired by Frutkin, and it included representatives from the DoD, the State Department, and the National Security Council.47

The group agreed that technological exchange should be handled in two phases. Phase A was a period of consultation before an intergovernmental agreement was signed. Phase B was implemented after such an agreement was adopted. “In Phase A we are releasing information so that foreign governments can assess whether or not to participate with us; the information is not too sensitive and the risks are not very great.”48 Requests for material would be authorized by NASA, after con­sultation with the Department of Defense when appropriate. If no objection was raised by the DoD within 72 hours the requested information would be released to foreign governments interested in participating in the post-Apollo program.49 (This “Phase A” mapped onto Phases A and B in the NASA project development schedule.) In Phase B, by contrast (corresponding to Phases C and D of NASA’s project schedule), the United States “would be dealing frequently with hard secu­rity and sensitive data,” involving “definitive designs, know-how or hardware,” and a more restrictive regime would be implemented to control it.50

This section has provided a quick look at how the flow of scientific, techno­logical, and managerial knowledge between NASA and its contractors, on the one hand, and foreign entities on the other, was handled in the early days of the post-Apollo program. The object of the exercise was to streamline the procedure for obtaining licenses or assistance agreements before any partner had even com­mitted to participate. NASA wanted the definition of the post-Apollo program, and the areas in which collaboration was possible to be as transparent as possible, so enabling foreign entities to decide for themselves where they might best con­tribute to the American program. As Frutkin stressed, foreign participation was being sought, above all, where there was an existing indigenous technological and industrial strength abroad. The aim was not to give technology away, but to creatively combine what others had to offer into NASA’s effort. The implementa­tion of this philosophy in 1970 and 1971, and the growing conviction in 1972 that it was impracticable, will be described in subsequent chapters.


The offer by NASA to build a Sortie Module as Europe’s contribution to the post – Apollo program was taken up by West Germany. On August 14, 1973, NASA administrator James Fletcher and ESRO director general Alexander Hocker signed an MoU for a “Cooperative Programme Concerning Development, Procurement and Use of a Space Laboratory in Conjunction With the Space Shuttle System.”37 The project, which would be spearheaded by the Federal Republic, foresaw the construction of a human-rated laboratory and a number of pallets that would be housed in the shuttle’s payload bay. NASA agreed to provide technical support, to manage the operational uses of the laboratory, and to develop essential technological items such as the access tunnel between Spacelab, as it was called, and the orbiter’s cabin.

The history of Spacelab has been written from various angles: by Douglas Lord (NASA) and the many European and project managers and engineers who built it38; by historians Lorenza Sebesta and Arturo Russo from the point of the general policy framework and the user community, respectively39; by indus­trialists who were engaged in it40; and by some of the scientists who actually exploited it.41

Though the user communities were not enthusiastic about the venture, industry was more interested. Niklas Reinke has noted the “enormous value in terms of contracts: German industry anticipated no less than DM625 million in turnover from the transatlantic cooperation project.”42 The prime contrac­tor, ERNO (MESH) in Bremen, also gained considerable insight into American methods of systems management. All the same, these were just “add-ons, designed to make [Spacelab] more convincing,” according to Wolfgang Finke, a senior official in the Federal Ministry for Research and Development. For him, political considerations dominated Germany’s willingness to continue with an “appendix” to post-Apollo after NASA had drastically reduced the scope of col­laboration. Central to Bonn’s thinking was the need to reassure her Western allies that she was a reliable ally even as she opened up toward the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc (the so-called Ostpolitik). “The German government looked for opportunities to demonstrate her attachment to the Western camp and especially her reliance on the United States,” said Finke, “without jeopardising her new policy toward the USSR and her neighbours in Eastern Europe. Among other things cooperation in space technology seemed to offer such an opportunity.”43 German officials also hoped that participation in Spacelab, “an endeavour that was at the time considered to be the most advanced,” would reduce the technol­ogy gap and contain the brain drain.44

Spacelab was a collaborative success at the working level. On the other hand it cost far more than expected—$750 million, more than twice the 1973 esti­mate. The laboratory only flew 16 times between 1983 and 1998 and the overall scientific return was disappointing.45 ESA and Germany also came to regret the terms of use agreed with NASA in the MoU. Europe agreed to build the first module, to fly one of their astronauts on it along with sharing the payload with the United States, and then to hand it over to NASA who could use it free of charge. NASA only had an obligation to buy one more Spacelab—and it did that and no more. This was far less than Europe had originally hoped for (the sale of four-eight units).

Whatever the disappointments, Spacelab was a major technological project that involved considerable industrial learning and that enabled Europe to engage directly for the first time in human spaceflight. It provided an essential platform for subsequent participation in Space Station Freedom and the International Space Station (see chapter 13). The last word is best left to Reimar Lust:

International cooperation does indeed depend a lot on the actual balance of power, but the benefits of cooperation cannot always be explained solely in figures. Just as many European firms today [1989] spend a lot of money to buy themselves into joint ventures with American and Japanese high-tech companies, in order to get knowledge on new technologies transferred into their firms, so ESA had to pay the price of Spacelab to acquire the basics of manned spaceflight.46

Part I: International Interests

Throughout the 1990s, the two nations retrofitted and reengineered launch vehicles, spacecraft, and their support systems for the Shuttle-Mir Program, the International Space Station (ISS), cooperation in remote sensing, as well as the commercial launch of communications satellites. The adaptive reuse of these Cold War artifacts reflected new priorities for the US and Russian governments: the acceptance (or criticisms) and use of these technologies were shaped by con­cerns for trade liberalization, nuclear disarmament, and Cold War budget con­straints. American fears over idle productive capacity and the lingering threat of postwar unemployment at home were coupled with the threat of Asian industrial ascendance in the 1990s.

In marshaling resources for cooperation, proponents of the ISS chose not to approach cooperation as a definitive set of one-time deals or off-the-shelf purchases. Instead, they suggested that the collaborative use and development of space technologies fostered relationships within and among governmental complexes—each in their own way coming to grips with the end of the Cold

War. The international policies of President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore (in some ways an extension of the Bush administration) illustrate that Russian-American cooperation in space was but one element of many fields of postwar cooperation—each intended to foster enduring ties of trade, finance, technical development, and environmental stewardship.

That said, it was not inevitable that the United States and Russia join space programs a scant four years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

NASA-Japan Relations in the Early 1960s

Apart from the spectacular transmission of the 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo, space relations between NASA and Japan during the early 1960s remained very superficial and were limited to sharing data and flying small probes in sounding rockets.13 Two factors hindered NASA’s cooperation with Japan during the early years. First, there was the controversial domestic behavior by Itokawa who sought autonomy for his ISAS group, coupled with open hostility between the Japanese scientist and NASA authorities. Itokawa complained to the State Department that, unlike the United States Air Force, which was more cooperative, NASA always imposed some terms or conditions that made the cooperation unattractive. He particularly resented an incident that occurred around 1962-1963 when he visited the United States as a representative of the government of Japan to arrange for the use of Wallops Island facilities for launching Kappa rockets that had grown too large for the Akita range, only to find that his requests were flatly turned down by NASA.14 Arnold Frutkin put the blame squarely on Itokawa’s shoulders. “The team at ISAS was not open to international cooperation,” he said in a recent interview. “We offered them collaboration exactly as we did to the Europeans and they were more laggard than the Russians in picking it up.”15 Frutkin also deeply resented Itokawa’s interpretation of NASA’s launch policy that the Japanese sci­entist published in a national newspaper, pointing out that “Itokawa wanted to develop a launch vehicle and was willing to completely misrepresent what we were willing to do and were not willing to do in order to get a free hand in Japan.”16 This mutual mistrust undermined any hope of productive cooperation.

The second factor subverting durable space collaboration with Japan was the diffused nature of space activities in the country. In 1962, Richard Barnes, chief of cooperative programs for the Office of International Programs remarked that

[t]here is clearly a substantial reservoir in Japan of the scientific and techno­logical resources (manpower and facilities) needed to carry out a sophisticated space research and development program. These skills are, however, not con­centrated in any one segment of the Japanese community. They are diffused among universities, government laboratories, military and industrial organiza­tions. Also, the close working relationship which exists between the U. S. sci­entific community and the U. S. government is nonexistent in Japan. . . there is currently no Japanese “NASA” i. e. an organization with the assigned mission of promoting and coordinating space research.17

Barnes concluded that without strong central direction the internal divisions in the country would seriously impede both the construction of a coherent national program and substantial cooperation with the United States.

As pointed out earlier, the NSAC chaired by Kaneshige was well aware of these difficulties and was determined to remedy them. He was helped in that goal by the first Chinese nuclear test that led the American authorities to move proac­tively at the highest levels to collaborate with Japan in space, notwithstanding NASA’s qualms.

NASA, Space Science, and Western Europe

.^Although the Space Act of 1958 specifically mandated NASA to promote international collaboration, it was up to officials in the new organization to define the terms and conditions under which they would work with partners, most of whom had little or no experience in the domain. Chapter 1 described the parameters that Frutkin believed were essential if international collabora­tion was to be a success.1 He was emphatic that those who wished to work with NASA had to come to the table with their own scientific ideas, their money to fund them, an industrial capacity able to produce the hardware, and with official support for their program. In the late 1950s very few countries were in any posi­tion to meet these demands. In the context of the widespread interest in space at the time, this meant that scientists, industries, and national administrations had to come up with experiments, payloads, adequate funding, and an institutional home for space before they could exploit the opportunities that NASA offered. In short, NASA played a major role in kick-starting and orienting incipient space programs in many friendly countries.

A significant step toward international collaboration in space science was taken about six months after the Space Act was signed into law. It was announced at the second meeting of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR). COSPAR was set up by the International Committee of Scientific Unions to maintain the momentum of the IGY.2 At the meeting in The Hague in March 1959 the American delegate to the committee, Richard Porter, made a formal offer of international cooperation on behalf of the United States. NASA’s offer, con­veyed by Porter, was that the United States would support the work of COSPAR by launching “worthy experiments proposed by scientists of other countries,” either as “single experiments as part of a larger payload, or groups of experi­ments comprising complete payloads.”3 In the former case the proposer would be “invited to work in a United States laboratory on the construction, calibra­tion, and installation of the necessary equipment in a U. S. research vehicle.” If that was not possible, a US scientist could help the originator bring the payload to fruition or, less desirably, the investigator abroad could simply provide the payload as a “black box” for installation. Entire payloads, which could weigh anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds and be placed in orbits ranging from 200 to 2,000 miles, would be accepted if recommended by COSPAR. In such cases

the United States was willing to “advise on the feasibility of proposed experi­ments, the design and construction of the payload package, and the necessary pre-flight environmental testing.” NASA also offered substantial funding for resident research associate positions in both experimental and theoretical space research.

This offer had an electrifying impact on those present. As Frutkin writes, “[T]he future of international cooperation in space exploration was raised at a stroke from the token to the real.”4 COSPAR emerged as an essential forum bringing together “precisely those individuals and national agencies best situated to motivate a positive response from their governments,” so facilitating bilateral and multilateral programs. NASA’s prestige and desirability as an international partner of choice was also confirmed at The Hague.

European space scientists were quick to respond to NASA’s offer, and remain unanimous in their praise for the help that NASA provided them, particularly in the 1960s. Reimar Lust, who was a leading figure in the European space effort for many years, spoke for many when he gave the Fulbright Fortieth Anniversary lecture in Washington in April 1987. “That the Europe of today can be seen as an autonomous, real and reliable partner of the United States in various fields of science and technology,” said Lust, “is thanks to the immensely unselfish help given to it by the United States.”5 This chapter fleshes out that remark by describing the crucial role that the agency and the US administration played in kick-starting the space programs in the “big four” European countries: Britain, France, Italy, and West Germany. This country-based approach is followed by a brief description of Europe’s contribution to the Hubble Space Telescope and a survey of two major projects undertaken between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The first, the International Solar Polar Mission, is interesting for the light it throws on the misunderstandings that can arise in international col­laboration when partners are constrained by different funding mechanisms for space projects. The second, the Cassini-Huygens planetary mission to Saturn and Titan, is a prime example of a successful joint venture of immense cost, complexity, and scientific interest.

The tapestry that weaves together NASA and Western Europe in space science has hundreds of threads and tens of knots, and it grows ever richer. This chapter can do no more than highlight some salient features. Some readers may have preferred an account that chose to be broader rather than to probe deeper. They are referred to a National Academies publication that surveyed about a dozen col­laborative projects between the United States and Europe in selected domains of space science, and that drew lessons for future collaboration from them.6

The United Kingdom

In October 1957 Harrie Massey, the leader of the British space science com­munity, was at a reception at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, DC, when the launch of Sputnik was announced.7 He was taken completely by surprise. In fact 18 months earlier the British IGY Committee had concluded that American and Soviet plans to launch satellites were not likely to succeed, and that even if they did, they were not likely to be of much scientific interest. This is not to say that space research was entirely neglected in the country. On the contrary, the Royal

Society and the Ministry of Supply—responsible for the country’s guided missile program—supported the development of a sounding rocket program for upper atmosphere research. After several test flights of their own Skylark, launched from the Anglo-Australian rocket range in Woomera, an experimental program got under way just after Sputnik II orbited the earth.8 The excitement of exploit­ing the new device, the conviction that any useful scientific data beyond the atmosphere would be freely available to all, and of course the cost led British scientists and policymakers to remain aloof at first from embarking on a satellite – based research program.

Two main factors inspired a change of thinking. One was internal pressure from leading figures such as Bernard Lovell, the director at Jodrell Bank, whose giant radio-telescope had tracked the trajectory of Sputnik over British soil.9 Lovell and some sections of the government, notably the Foreign Office, argued that the United Kingdom would be “classed as an underdeveloped country” if she did not launch her own satellite.10 Then there was the wish to improve relations with the United States. The launch of the Sputniks transformed the parameters of scientific and technological collaboration between the two nations. For a decade the British had resented the constraints imposed on scientific and technological exchange by Washington with one of its most faithful allies, par­ticularly in sensitive areas.11 A few days after Sputnik II was launched the min­ister of defense told Parliament that the Soviet satellites had “helped precipitate closer collaboration with the United States” and remarked that this new impetus “offers new prospects which we dared not hope for a few months ago.” The country’s crash program to develop a hydrogen bomb was given a major boost.12 Cooperation in space science also moved center stage. In September 1958, six months before NASA’s offer at COSPAR, American officials offered to launch a British payload on an American satellite more-or-less free of charge. In October the administration released a report praising British achievements and extolling the importance of international collaboration in space. The State Department hoped that Britain could quickly launch a payload into space, so becoming the first nation after the superpowers to do so, denying the communist bloc another space first.

The British community was in no position to meet a tight deadline: the use of the Skylark sounding rocket still defined the limits of its space ambitions. However, the new opportunities for UK-US cooperation led the Royal Society and the Ministry of Supply to reconsider a satellite program. Massey master­minded two major policy statements in October 1958 in which he made a strong plea for an autonomous British program; he was even opposed to launching a British satellite with an American rocket, as this would involve “an obvious loss of prestige.” This national approach was quickly undermined, both for lack of domestic support and by NASA’s offer at COSPAR in March 1959. Six weeks after Porter made his statement at The Hague the British National Committee on Space Research, chaired by Massey, had established working groups to define experiments that could be launched by NASA.

In June 1959 Massey led a cohort of British scientists armed with 11 experi­ment proposals on a trip to NASA.13 They were warmly received. A provisional agreement was reached for using a Scout rocket to launch three satellites at roughly annual intervals.14 There would be no exchange of funds and clean interfaces. The scientific instruments would have to be tested using sounding rockets, preferably British but if need be also American. The first launches would probably be from Wallops Island and if the launch failed every experiment would be launched a second time. NASA would provide the body of the first satel­lite and auxiliary services such as power supplies and telemetry: Britain would gradually assume responsibility for the entire satellite. The agency’s tracking and telemetry network, possibly supplemented by British facilities, would be avail­able. For the first satellite NASA also offered to receive the telemetry tapes from the ground stations, catalog and edit them, and compress them into digital form before sending them to the United Kingdom for further analysis. NASA also provided equipment to have a quick look at the first data received from the satel­lite so that experimenters could gauge if their instruments were performing as hoped. The entire process of data reception and analysis would be handed over to the British teams after this first “tutorial.”

The design of the satellite required close collaboration between teams on both sides of the Atlantic. The performance characteristics of the Scout rocket had still not been fixed early in 1960: payload capacity and orbit capability were in flux, and temperature and vibration conditions at launch were only vaguely known. As Massey and Robins explain, the scope for mishap was immense. NASA had to design “the satellite structure, power supplies, data storage devices and encoders, and telemetry transmitters.” Groups in Britain, for their part, “would design the instrument sensors, which would interlock and interact with practically every aspect of the NASA design activities.”15 They had chosen their seven experiments by December 1959 by drawing as much as possible on the experience gained with Skylark. This favored instruments that studied the high altitude ionosphere.

To manage the project a joint US/UK working group, which met every three months, was established. By the end of 1960 a number of major difficul­ties still loomed on the horizon. Data encoding and transmission was proving more demanding than anticipated. Mechanically complex external paddles were needed to support the solar power cells. For safety reasons the maximum launch inclination of the Scout from Wallops Island was 52°, somewhat less than the British scientists had planned for.

The restraint on launch inclination was lifted during the course of 1961, when it became clear that the Scout would not be available early in 1962, as planned. NASA accepted the additional cost of launching with the already developed and reliable Thor-Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral. The British were more than willing to oblige, and took advantage of the enhanced telemetry coverage by enrolling radio stations in Singapore, Port Stanley in the Falkland islands, and on a Royal Navy ship off the coast of Tristan da Cunha.

The first launch of the satellite, on April 10, 1962, was aborted due to a fault in the fuel system of the rocket. A few weeks later, on April 26, 1962, Britain’s first scientific payload was successfully lofted into space on board a satellite bap­tized Ariel 1. Its capacity was degraded unexpectedly three months later by a high-altitude test of a hydrogen bomb that temporarily perturbed the opera­tion of its instruments and permanently damaged the solar cells providing elec­tric power. Ariel 2 (launched from Wallops Island in March 1964) and Ariel 3 (launched from the Western Test Range in May 1967) followed, with the United

Kingdom taking increasing responsibility for the engineering design, construc­tion, and testing of the satellite itself, as well as for data handling and analysis.

As was mentioned earlier, NASA originally hoped that, in the context of Cold War rivalry, a British satellite might secure a space first for the free world. This was not to be. On September 29, 1962, Canada’s Alouette 1 was successfully orbited by a Thor-Agena rocket.16 NASA provided the launch vehicle, launch facilities, and a worldwide network of ground stations. The satellite was designed and built by the Defense Research Telecommunications Establishment (DTRE) in Ottawa. The project was intended to help Canada gain a space capability, to acquire new data for the engineering of high-frequency communication links, and to enhance the DTRE’s considerable in-house expertise on the effects of the ionosphere on the scattering and deflection of radar beams. Alouette 1 was the first successfully launched satellite to be developed indigenously by a country other than the United States or the Soviet Union.

The Second Major Barrier to Participation: Launcher Availability. and the Constraints of the Intelsat Agreements

Launcher availability, and its relationship with the ongoing negotiations on the definitive Agreements establishing Intelsat, overshadowed the post-Apollo nego­tiations.51 It was raised at a joint meeting of senior representatives from the State Department and NASA early in 1970.51 U. Alexis Johnson, the deputy secretary for political/military affairs, headed the delegation from State. Johnson was an enthusiastic proponent of international collaboration who had just pushed through a very controversial agreement to share rocket technology with the Japanese (see chapter 10). Paine and Frutkin represented NASA. Those present noted that

[w]e had anticipated, and the Europeans have now informally but unmistakably confirmed, that they cannot be expected to participate in the development of the shuttle unless they can be assured that they will be able to purchase shuttle launch­ings for any peaceful purpose. Put bluntly, this means they will not participate if they could be denied access to US launching capabilities whenever their purposes are judged undesirable by the US on narrow grounds of US national interest.52

As NASA saw it the entire collaborative project with Europe hung in the balance, its success crucially dependent on this one issue. Robert Packard in the State Department put it thus: “However ungrateful or disingenuous or misguided the reactions of many of our partners in Intelsat, we have managed to evoke their hostility and distrust in comsat matters to a greater degree than in most other areas of our relationships with them. This includes many of our closest allies and foreign associates.”53 A positive response to European demands “could well cause Europe to abandon large launcher development programs.” It would also make the Europeans more willing to trust the United States in the renegotiation of the Intelsat interim agreements. A negative reaction, by contrast, would not only mean losing a contribution of up to a billion dollars to the post-Apollo pro­gram. It would “confirm the position of those Europeans who preach the need for non-dependence on the US,” which would in turn “provoke decisions in Europe to channel funds into competitive and independent, as well as wasteful, European space programs.” It would also complicate the United States’ position in Intelsat, “strengthen[ing] those forces which argue that the US continues to seek by every means to dominate space telecommunications into the 1980’s.” The sentiments expressed here do of course have a familiar ring about them. As we saw in the previous chapter, the combination of US dominance in Comsat and the administration’s support for their position expressed in NSAM 338 had been a source of constant friction between NASA and Western Europe, and indeed between NASA and other arms of the US administration. Yet, while both Frutkin and Barnes were immensely irritated by European distrust of US motives in Intelsat (Europeans seem to think, Frutkin wrote, that the United States was “seeking by all means, fair or foul, to maintain political and technical control of Intelsat”54), it was also recognized that it was difficult to maintain international cooperation on the basis of the interim Intelsat agreements. In 1966-1967 the debate was dominated by worries over the “technological gap” and NASA strongly favored a proactive attempt to encourage technological sharing with European industries so that they could compete more effectively with US firms for comsat contracts in the space segment. The debate in 1969 had moved beyond this. As the negotia­tions over the definite agreements got under way, the entire structure of Comsat itself was being challenged, and questions were being asked regarding the United States’ willingness to provide launch assistance to foreign countries that wanted to establish their own comsat systems separate from the global system.

The negotiations over the Intelsat agreements brought home to the Europeans how vulnerable they were to American technological leadership. As we saw earlier,

NSAM 338, promulgated on September, 25 1965, denied American assistance in the development of foreign communication satellite capabilities, and further emphasized the determination of the US authorities to leverage that leadership, and the dynamism of their industry, to shape the contours of an international com­munication satellite system to their commercial and political advantage. Within a few years the evidence of a fruitful collaboration between the state and private industry was there for all to see. Between 1964 and 1970, NASA and the DoD (which developed its own system) had invested $207 million and $377 million, respectively, in research and development for communication satellites: Comsat had invested $143 million.55 The sophistication and capacity of four generations of Intelsat satellites increased apace. Intelsat I (Early Bird), the first satellite built by Hughes, was an experimental-operational satellite, with 240 two-voice chan­nels, that inaugurated commercial transatlantic communication in June 1965. The Intelsat II series added a television channel. The first successful Intelsat III launch, on December 18, 1968, had 1,200 two-way voice circuits and four-color television channels. This series ensured global coverage by 1969, ushering in the first and only global commercial communications satellite system, and so achiev­ing Intelsat’s prime mission objective. The first Intelsat IV satellite was success­fully placed in orbit in January 1971, as the final negotiations on the definitive Intelsat agreements were being settled. Positioned over the Atlantic, Intelsat IV had 3,000-9,000 two-way voice circuits and up to 12 color television channels.56

Economically speaking, the United States was the main investor in, and benefac­tor of this system. As the State Department reported to Congress in 1970, “Since 1964 the 76 members of the Intelsat consortium have invested $350,000,000 in the system and America’s share (and voting power) is currently about 52% or $226 million. Ninety-two percent of the total spent ($323,500,000) went to American contractors.”57 There was no foreign procurement for Intelsat I. It was 2.3 percent in Intelsat II and 4.6 percent in Intelsat III. It rose to about 26 per­cent in the first four of eight in the Intelsat IV series, for which Hughes Aircraft subcontracted $19.6 million abroad. It then fell back to about 10 percent for the next four in the series.58

The benefits reaped in the space segment were supplemented by the domi­nance of US firms in the ground segment. Congress was told that, by 1970, 28 countries had invested some $250 million in 50 earth stations, in which at least 50 percent of the hardware had been provided by American manufacturers.59 Indonesia was one such country. A ground station built near Jakarta that was car­rying 95 percent of Indonesia’s international communications was equipped with hardware provided by an American company. It was operated by an American firm that employed only relatively uneducated Indonesian technicians, and that was slated to reap all the profits from the operation for the first 20 years.60

Situations like this were obviously not tenable in an “international” organiza­tion. France, which firmly believed in the technological, commercial, political, and cultural value of communications satellites—and who realized that increased investment and improved technology were keys to improving Europe’s situation in Intelsat procurement—took the lead. As mentioned in chapter 3 , in 1967 it agreed with Germany to build an experimental communication satellite called Symphonie as a first step toward the acquisition of the technological and indus­trial know-how needed to compete meaningfully with American firms for Intelsat contracts. Symphonie was a small (185 kilograms) satellite that was to be launched with ELDO’s Europa II rocket in 1973. Its capabilities were marginally better than Intelsat I and II. It would be placed in geostationary orbit at longitude 15°W, where it could provide the overseas territories and provinces of France “with cul­tural television programmes and commercial or governmentally run telephone ser­vices,” as one French engineer put it in September 1970.61 The first flight model would be a “technical test phase.” It would be followed by a “non-commercial experimental operational phase,” in which interested countries could build the ground stations needed to receive its signals. In 1970 there were still some doubts about the more contentious “operational phase” that would follow.

The negotiation of the definitive Intelsat agreements got under way in January 1969. The Europeans moved forcefully to ensure that they had a greater say in the running of the new body that would emerge. After long, difficult, and bruis­ing discussions the definitive agreements were adopted in May 1971 by a vote of 73-0, with 2 member countries absent and 4 abstentions including France.62 The legal and political anomaly, whereby Comsat was both the representative of an international organization, the defender of US corporate interests, and the manager of the space segment was abolished. The definitive arrangements unam­biguously split the administrative and financial side of Intelsat from the technical operations. It vested authority for the former in an Assembly of Parties, the prime political organ of Intelsat, in which all Member States had one vote. Technical matters fell into the domain of a more restrictive Board of Governors, the exten­sion of the ICSC, and in fact the heart of power in the Intelsat system.

The European demand that Intelsat should help develop technology in those countries that lagged behind the United States—another issue that had been raised in 1964—was again rebuffed by the American delegation, now with the support of the developing countries. The latter saw no reason to subsidize the economy of an industrialized region by placing contracts for hardware that was more expensive than the best bid. All the same a compromise wording was found that left the door open for some concessions in procurement policy. Article XIII of the definitive agree­ments not only specified that procurement would be open to “international invita­tions to tender.” It also allowed that, if there was more than one bid that offered the “best combination of quality, price and the most favorable delivery time,” the contract would be awarded primarily so as to stimulate worldwide competition, thus nominally breaking the grip of US firms on the supply of goods and services.63

Article XIV(d) was one of the most controversial items in the Intelsat defini­tive agreements, and one of particular pertinence here. It dealt with the rights of Intelsat member countries “to establish, acquire or utilize space segment facili­ties separate from the Intelsat space segment facilities to meet its international public communications services requirements” (my emphasis). Comsat went into the negotiations demanding that “the definitive arrangements should contain an absolute prohibition against any Intelsat member’s participation in the estab­lishment or use of any communications satellite system other than the Intelsat system for international telecommunications purposes.” The draft agreement put forward by the US delegation suggested “sanctions for the breach of this obligation by way of suspension and eventual expulsion from Intelsat.”64

The US delegation led by Comsat won little if any support, either from gov­ernment authorities at home or from other nations in Intelsat. The compromise

hammered out, against strong American opposition, allowed for separate regional comsat systems under two conditions. First, such a system had to be “technically compatible [. . .] with the use of the radio frequency spectrum and orbital space by the existing or planned Intelsat space segment.” Second, and more ambiguously, the new system would be allowed if it did not cause “significant economic harm to the global system of Intelsat.”65 These two conditions (technical compatibility and absence of significant economic harm) would first be voted on by the Board of Governors, where votes were weighted, and a complex formula was established to curb the powers of any single major country, or bloc of industrialized coun- tries.66 The board’s recommendation would be passed on to the Assembly of Parties, where each country had one vote. To be implemented its recommenda­tions required the support of two-thirds of those present and voting.

The final agreements were not specific as to how “significant economic harm” was to be established, other than saying that two-thirds of the delegates in the Assembly of Parties had to agree on it. On one interpretation, to proceed with a separate system required a positive vote from member states, that is, two-thirds of them had to agree that the new system would not do the global system signifi­cant economic harm. On another interpretation, comsat systems could proliferate unless Intelsat made a negative finding, that is, unless two-thirds of those voting agreed that the system would cause significant economic harm to Intelsat.

This distinction was crucial for the proponents of a separate comsat system. On the first interpretation, a so-called positive finding, the onus was on the can­didate for a new system to persuade two-thirds of the member states that it would not do significant economic harm to the global network. On the second interpre­tation, a negative finding, the onus was on two-thirds of the Intelsat Assembly of Parties to show that it would. The assumption was that the requesting member was confident that the separate system would not be at the expense of the global system. Countries like France that wanted to develop separate regional systems obviously preferred the “negative” interpretation, since this placed the onus on their opponents to muster widespread support to stop them.67

The definitive agreements did not empower Intelsat to make binding determi­nations on any of its parties. It was reduced to a consultative body, which could only make advisory recommendations. Thus a member or group of members could proceed with developing a separate system even if the Intelsat Assembly voted that it would do significant economic harm to the international organi – zation.68 The only factor stopping a member state defying Intelsat would be the opprobrium of those in the body who sought to defend and respect its proce­dures, and who would be incensed to find revenue-producing traffic diverted to a separate system to the exclusive benefit of a limited number of (necessarily industrialized) countries.

For NASA, Comsat’s attempts to protect Intelsat from competition were unnecessary and counterproductive. Europe was a decade behind the United States in the development of communications satellites—a decade in which US business would still dominate the market. Anyway US industrial support would be essential for Europeans to build advanced communications satellites for the 1980s, thus ensuring a net dollar inflow into the country for both the payload and the launcher. In short NASA was emphatic that the advantages of foreign participation in future space programs “far outweighed any benefit we could hope to get from continuing to restrict launch services so as to protect Intelsat.”69 Hence the conclusion:

What is required is a positive internal policy directive, short and clear enough to be unequivocal, permitting the Department of State and NASA to make clear as appropriate that the US will agree, in any broader agreement on major foreign con­tributions to the post-Apollo program, to make STS launch services available on a reimbursable basis for any peaceful purpose. The internal statement should come from the White House so all agencies can and will reflect it.70

The same assurances would have to be provided for the supply of reimbursable launch services in the 1970s, before the shuttle was operational.

By mid-July 1970 the State Department and NASA had devised a satisfactory formula, in their view, as regards the availability of launchers (the DoD hav­ing withdrawn from the issue).71 They were persuaded that some proliferation of communications satellites systems was unavoidable if the United States was to maintain credibility in the negotiations over the final version of the Intelsat agreements. To meet this new situation NASA declared that NASM 338 should be revised to allow for reimbursable launchings or to sell shuttles “to those who will have participated substantially in the development of the shuttle,” like the Europeans. New international agreements being finalized in Intelsat would no longer express President Kennedy’s proposal for a single global comsat system; they would have to allow for “domestic, regional or specialized communications systems.” In this more relaxed regime it was suggested that the United States would launch foreign comsats unless “the appropriate organ of Intelsat reached a negative finding with respect to such a system.” In this situation the United States would be “obliged to withhold our own collaboration,” that is, it would not col­lude with a petitioner that wanted to override a majority vote in Intelsat.72

NASA was aware that while this was as far as they could go at the moment, it would not satisfy Europeans. As Frutkin explained to Packard in the State Department, “[T]oo many interests in Europe would wish to regard such a qual­ified assurance as negative at this point, exactly as was done with the Symphonie launch correspondence some years ago.”73 On that occasion the United States had stipulated that, to respect the Intelsat agreements, it would only launch the Franco-German satellite if it was to be used for experimental, not operational purposes. Imposing conditions on launching comsats to satisfy Intelsat was anathema to the Europeans, who felt that, if they judged that they were respect­ing the agreements, it was not up to the United States to use their monopoly on access to space to thwart European ambitions. A Congressional rapporteur on an ESC meeting held in Bonn early in July reported back to Washington that he was told “time and again” that European participation in post-Apollo required an “iron-clad agreement by the United States to make available launch vehicles and services, unconditionally, for any peaceful purpose.”74 In sum, the launcher issue was never going to be resolved as long as some influential members of the European space community demanded unconditional access to American launch services. The stark choice between a major contribution to the post-Apollo pro­gram and the maintenance of a costly and putatively obsolete European launcher was also seen as the choice between deriving advanced technological knowledge from the United States and being at the mercy of the United States’ interpreta­tion of the definitive Intelsat agreements.


The idea of foreign participation in the post-Apollo program moved through two quite distinct phases. The first was dominated by NASA administrator Tom Paine, and lasted for about a year from October 1969 through September 1970. Paine’s enthusiasm for including other countries and regions—Western Europe, but also Australia, Canada, and Japan—in NASA’s ambitious schemes for the 1970s and 1980s, produced a flurry of activity on both sides of the Atlantic. Frutkin took the lead in exploring, along with interlocutors represent­ing the European Space Conference, the financial, industrial, technological, and managerial possibilities of a major contribution to the Space Transportation System. In the second phase, which lasted from the end of 1970 to the middle of 1972, new and extremely determined actors played an increasingly impor­tant role in shaping the contours of collaboration. White House staffers Peter Flanigan and Tom Whitehead, with the support of the president’s science adviser Edward David, led the charge. They were hostile to Paine’s “swash-buckling” approach, believed that NASA had to completely rethink its role and redefine its demands on the public purse, and were deeply concerned about technol­ogy transfer to Western Europe. New NASA administrator Jim Fletcher, while willing to fight for the STS, shared their grave doubts about international col­laboration. His sentiments permeated through NASA once the president had authorized the shuttle program, and were adopted by Deputy Administrator Low and by Arnold Frutkin. By March 1972 only the State Department was still prepared to make a strong case for European participation in the core of the program, but it was too late.

Senior negotiators on both sides adopted entrenched positions that were immune to argument. For the Europeans, it was the Belgian chairman of the European Space Conference, Theo Lefevre, with strong backing from France, who demanded watertight launch guarantees before he would fully commit Europe to post-Apollo cooperation. The horizons of his thinking were domi­nated by the fear that the United States might use its monopoly on access to space to impede the development of a strong European telecommunications sat­ellite industry. The short history of Intelsat in the 1960s had convinced him, and many people in Europe, that America would only relinquish its control of this lucrative market with great difficulty, and that the State Department would work along with Comsat to undermine meaningful competition from separate, regional telecom systems.

On the US side it was Whitehead, along with David, who sought cast-iron guarantees that there would be no significant technological leakage to Europe through its participation in the shuttle program. When Paine launched post – Apollo cooperation in 1969 the argument that the United States should help close the technological gap with Europe still had considerable traction in Washington, DC. By 1970 it was technological competition, not collaboration that dominated the thinking of many in the White House. Whitehead, who could barely conceal his contempt for Paine, was convinced that NASA was reck­lessly giving away US technology to Europe. Endless reports and analyses failed to change his position, which found resonance with Ed David. When one adds this unrelenting hostility to technological leakage with the problems of manage­rial organization, the dangers of cost-overruns, and the fears that the Europeans were not quite up to the technological tasks they wanted to undertake, one has a bundle of arguments that was immensely corrosive to any collaborative project.

The president had the authority to bring his White House staffers to heel. The image of Nixon that emerges from these debates, however, is one of a presi­dent whose policy pronouncements were often vague, imprecise, and off the cuff—and open to manipulation and self-serving interpretation by his closest advisers. There is no doubt that Nixon was genuine in his desire for interna­tional space collaboration, above all with the Soviets and the eastern bloc (see chapter 7). This was central to his geopolitical strategy of detente, a strategy that sidelined Europe in the interest of improving relations with both the Soviet Union and Mao’s China. Within that broad policy framework the president was usually vague about the scope and intimacy of technological collaboration. This left considerable room for officials in NASA and the White House—doubtless in good faith—to justify policy agendas, even conflicting policy agendas in the president’s name. Though Kissinger was extremely frustrated by these gambits, Nixon apparently ignored them: certainly he did little to clarify his position.

American industry did not share the concerns over technological transfer that so preoccupied senior members of the administration. All of the major American aerospace contractors were positive about incorporating European firms as sub­contractors in various parts of the shuttle system. They had identified European technological strengths, which complemented their own. They were convinced that a foreign contribution would provide greater long-term stability to the program, especially before Congress. And they had no doubt that, even if the Europeans did acquire new and significant knowledge from them, they would still emerge superior in the long run, both because of what they picked up them­selves from Europe, and because they were confident that US industry was far more dynamic, entrepreneurial, and innovative than its sluggish, bureaucratized European partners.

The Department of Defense was another actor that had little influence on the trajectory of post-Apollo collaboration. It was deeply implicated in the shut­tle design by virtue of its demand for an orbiter cross-range capability of some 1,250 nm. That demand, in turn, made major technological demands, particu­larly regarding the Thermal Protection System on the leading edge of the delta wings. Europe’s experience with Concorde was a potential asset here, however. If the Air Force eventually took little interest in the course of deliberations it was because it rapidly concluded that it would need to build its own tug anyway— and of course as the technological feasibility of that element waned so too did the Department of Defense’s engagement in the negotiations.

From the European perspective, the departure of Paine and the arrival of Fletcher turned out to be a serious setback to post-Apollo collaboration. Paine’s enthusiasm was infectious, yet his optimism was misguided, even irresponsible. He simply did not have the support in NASA, and certainly not in the Nixon White House for an ambitious collaborative project. Of course Frutkin and Low did what they could to carry out the administrator’s wishes. Their efforts were truly Herculean. They had to contend with European negotiators who sought to be treated as equals in a massively asymmetric financial, industrial, and technological project. They found attempts to move forward on discuss­ing concrete sites for collaboration constantly thwarted by European demands for launch guarantees. On top of this they found the ground cut away under their feet by senior officials in other sections of government. Johnson’s will­ingness to yield to Charyk’s last-minute demand to reinterpret the meaning of votes on what counted as significant economic harm in the Intelsat Assembly of Parties infuriated Europeans and isolated NASA. So too did the collapse of the negotiations over Aerosat, in which once again Whitehead and Flanigan’s concerns about technological leakage played an important role. Fletcher, for his part, seems to have had no stomach for a fight with the White House staffers. More precisely, perhaps, he agreed with their concerns. He too was concerned about the multiple complications that would ensue on giving the Europeans a large technological role in post-Apollo, and quickly came to the conclusion that the only possible merit of post-Apollo collaboration was its foreign policy aspects. It was a definitive move in a climate in which, as we have said, Europe was no longer a major concern in the president’s foreign policy agenda, and its growing technological maturity—and not concerns about the “technologi­cal gap”—was shaping the contours of policy thinking by senior White House staffers. Rogers and Johnson—the latter already discredited for having made a too-generous deal with Japan over launcher technology (see chapter 10)—could not hope to bring off a major collaborative project with Western Europe under these circumstances.

If the Sorie Can/Spacelab survived this lengthy process at all it was because Germany remained determined to keep the collaborative ball in the air, because the State Department saw considerable interest in working closely with a tradi­tional ally that was itself reevaluating its relationships with the eastern bloc and the Soviet Union, and because this technological element embodied Frutkin’s two cardinal principles of “no exchange of funds” and “clean interfaces” in their pure form. In March 1972 George Low wrote that NASA sought foreign par­ticipation in the use of the shuttle, not in its development. Spacelab satisfied that requirement.

For Sale: Cold War Hardware

In the late 1980s, Soviet policymakers identified a new use for space infrastruc­tures. Over time and in certain circles, the Russian space program came to be interpreted not simply as a collection of state assets providing public and defense services, but also as a collection of products that might be sold on the interna­tional market. As state finances plunged, the sale and lease of space assets prom­ised cash from abroad.

Soviet space program officials had begun flirting with the notion of sell­ing or leasing equipment as early as 1985. That year the Ministry of General Machine Building (MOM) created the Main Directorate for the Development and Use of Space Technology for the National Economy and Science Research— Glavkosmos. This, the “commercial arm of the Soviet space program,” emerged from the Soviet industrial complex geared specifically to placing Soviet space technologies on the international market.1

Shortly thereafter, at a 1987 symposium for roughly four hundred foreign­ers, the world market perused many of the same goods and services that were offered for sale again in the 1990s. There, Glavkosmos offered microgravity space for rent in the then one-year-old Mir space station, space on returnable capsules, rocket launches on the Proton, entire communication satellites, along with com­munication satellite transponders. One American was particularly struck by the Soyuzkart mapping agency. Remarking on the quality of aerial and space imag­ery available for sale, he recalled, “[W]e bought what I think was the first print they sold, paying about $800 for a print of an area in Oregon with five-foot resolution—better than anything Landsat or Spot has for sale.”2

However, this early engagement between Soviet sellers and prospective buyers revealed a limited understanding of late-twentieth-century market mechanisms. The director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Space Engineering Research Center (Edward Crawley), and a colleague in MIT’s Soviet Space Policy Institute (Jim Rymarcsuk) observed that “the USSR appears to have a limited conception of the financial and decision-making of US firms. The busi­ness planning process (including market assessment, capitalization, product development, and marketing) is new to the USSR.”3 The authors noted the ten­dency of Glavkosmos to insist upon the immediate sale of hardware as opposed to entering long-term development agreements that were common to US contract­ing relations. Driven by a need for hard currency, Soviet marketing resembled “US practices of old” in which the supplier need only assure final functionality of a part, but did not invite user input in design or production.4

In addition to this, the marketing of this surplus equipment and space facilities allegedly faltered under a number of American federal controls protecting domestic industry from foreign competition or prohibiting the transfer of defense-related technologies to other nations. Among these were the regulations laid out in the Arms Export Control Act, intended to block the transfer of items falling under the Munitions Control List to communist countries.5 This Western Bloc embargo dated to 1949, when seven nations signed on, including the United States, Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom, forming the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls (CoCom).6

As of the spring of 1992, nearly all space-related hardware was included in the US Munitions List and regulated by the Arms Export Control Act and its International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) (see chapter 14). Additionally, Congress exercised control over the export of space commodities destined for third parties intending to launch American space hardware on Soviet launch vehicles. These protectionist measures were intended to benefit both US national security and the nascent private launch industry.7

Thus it came as a shock to many when in 1992, the Bush administration eased into negotiations for a handful of hardware purchases. In the interest of upgrad­ing Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) systems, the Space Defense Initiative Office considered the purchase of a Topaz 2 nuclear power system and $6 million of plutonium 238, a nonweapons grade isotope commonly used in NASA deep space probes as well as some Defense Department applications.8 More important, but less publicized, SDI administrators were planning to purchase electric thrust­ers for station-keeping on a projected 40-60 Brilliant Eyes satellites.9

At the same time US firms GE Astrospace and Space Systems/Loral were con­sidering the purchase of thrusters from the Russians. GE Astrospace intended to use four such thrusters (costing $200,000-300,000) for station-keeping on AT&T satellites. Space Systems/Loral considered higher-performance thrusters.

The Effects of the Chinese Nuclear Test

On October 16, 1964, the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) successfully tested a 22-kiloton atomic bomb at the Lop Nur site. The balance of power in Asia clearly tilted toward Beijing. The government of India began to reconsider its non-nuclear posture, and eventually tested its own bomb a decade later—an option denied to Japan by Article 9 of its postwar constitution that prohibited the development of nuclear weapons. Instead the press and officials in Tokyo emphasized the loss of prestige suffered at the expense of a third-world communist country, and suggested that a robust space program would be a valu­able technological antidote that could save national pride.18 Indeed, as one lead­ing politician and space advocate put it in 1966, “[I]f Mainland China should succeed in launching a satellite ahead of Japan, the sense of hopelessness of the Japanese will be so great that no one will have the heart to see it. It is the national responsibility of the leaders of our country,” Yasuhiro Nakasone went on, “to take the initiative so that this national confidence cannot be lost, even a little.”19 The risks of nuclear proliferation to nonaligned countries led the State Department to plan for an appropriate response even before the explosion occurred at Lop Nur. The imminent Chinese test, the State Department sug­gested, provided “an opportunity to demonstrate U. S. cooperation in sharing of advanced technology with countries of Asia.” Granted the strict limits on nuclear collaboration with Japan, an alternative like “full and active cooperation with the Japanese in such outer space endeavors as space communications and the launching of a Japanese space satellite” suggested themselves.20 This was not going to be easy, however, as officials in the American Embassy in Tokyo pointed out after China had tested its bomb. The Japanese would not leap at the opportunity to collaborate with the United States since there was “a feeling among Japanese space officials that independent development of a successful space program is important to Japan’s prestige, especially in view of the recent ‘Chicom’ [State Department abbreviation for the PRC] successes in the nuclear field.”21 Certainly the prime minister wanted to see a Japanese satellite aloft to counter the impact of the PRC’s nuclear test, and to demonstrate Japan’s advanced scientific and technological capability. What is more, “Assistance from the U. S. in tracking and communicating with such a satellite would be well received in Japan and would contribute to U. S.-Japan relations.” However, the Embassy emphasized, granted Japanese sensibilities, “[t]he position of the U. S. was to remain one of cooperation and assistance, rather than guidance or domi­nation, if the political objectives of the Japanese were to be met.”22 Too much engagement would obviously expose Tokyo to a propaganda onslaught from Beijing for being dependent on the United States.

In September 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson suggested to NASA administrator James Webb that the American space program “should have more visibility abroad and should yield more return to American foreign pol­icy objectives.”23 Assisting the Europeans and the Japanese with their space programs would help strengthen the alliance within the capitalist bloc and assure greater American involvement in those nations. By helping its allies, the United States could also impress them with its technological superiority vis-a-vis the Soviets. Following up on this, Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, who was also chairman of the Space Council, visited Japan late in December 1965. There he suggested that the two countries work together on a major project akin to the Helios mission that the American president had proposed to German chancellor Erhard just a few days before (chapter 2). “We in the U. S. have watched Japan’s remarkable advance into this field with interest and admiration. We look to your country,” Humphrey went on, “for a major con­tribution on the leadership role as the world crosses the threshold into the space age.” Hence the value of cooperating on “major space projects which none of us can do alone.”24

This high-level willingness to collaborate constructively with Japan was thwarted by Itokawa’s determination to remain autonomous, and his con­tempt for his competitors. Itokawa made official statements beginning in 1964 calling for Japan to launch a satellite in 1966. He wanted his country to be the fourth nation to orbit a satellite after the United States, USSR, and France. However, he insisted that his group achieve the feat alone and without help from foreign countries, unlike Canadian and European scien­tists who had sought US assistance in launching their satellites. He chose the three-stage Mu series rocket to launch a Disturbed Ionosphere Patrol Satellite (DIPS) or an All-Wave Radio Noise Receiving Satellite. He viewed both the satellites as a distinctly Japanese contribution to space science and as an exten­sion of the experiments with Japanese instruments sent up in NASA sounding rockets from Wallops Island. Responding to critics who argued that “lack of coordination might result in duplication of effort within Japan,” he said he saw “no harm in duplication.” He also dismissed all efforts by the NSAC to rationalize the program by discrediting the Council: “[T]here are no space scientists among the members of the NSAC,” said Itokawa, “and its chair­man Kaneshige could hardly be called a space scientist. His field was textile machinery.”25

In exchanges with State Department officials in April and May 1966 Kaneshige confirmed that the internal strife that so struck Barnes and Frutkin was damag­ing the Japanese space program. The chairman of the NSAC remarked on the “lack of a good program,” and said that “the fact that Japan has not yet suc­ceeded in integrating its two space programs—the Itokawa program sponsored by the Ministry of Education and the Program of the Science and Technology Agency—[was] causing embarrassment.” According to Kaneshige, the prime minister was making policy with regard to space, but “there [was] nobody now who can speak for the Japanese space program.” He amplified this statement by claiming that no one (presumably other than the prime minister) was even authorized to request American tracking assistance in the event of the launching of a Japanese satellite. Kaneshige believed that Japan might ultimately establish some sort of national space agency, a “little NASA,” though he felt that it was first essential to work out a sensible, long-range plan for space research.26

Kaneshige’s gloom led him to pour cold water on every suggestion made by senior State Department official Herman Pollack for closer collaboration between the two countries, no matter how tentative. A memo summarizing an exchange between the two men, in which Pollack emphasized how much store he placed on collaborating with Japan, concluded that Kaneshige’s replies “in general carried the impression that until Japan’s internal problems with its space program are settled by the Japanese themselves, Japan would find it difficult to discuss with the U. S. the details regarding a useful program of international cooperation in space.”27

To sum up, during the 1960s NASA collaborated sporadically, and with difficulty with Japan. Absent a coherent national space program and a single government-sponsored organization to serve as interlocutor, there was no reli­able point of contact in Tokyo. Frutkin was emphatic that he would not deal with individuals unless they were empowered by their national authorities. Itokawa’s strident nationalism and public misrepresentation of NASA’s launcher policy ruled him out as a partner. Kaneshige’s intentions were sound but he was not able to rein in his rival, a man who enjoyed wide public visibility and who contemptuously dismissed him as a meddling bureaucrat. Relations with the United States were further soured by provocative remarks by Itokawa that may have struck a popular chord at home but that only increased consterna­tion in Washington. The Chinese nuclear test particularly irked the head of ISAS. In 1964 the State Department reported that Itokawa had said that “some Japanese scientists had been considering the possibility of publicizing Japan’s potential to produce nuclear weapons if it so chose, as a means to counteract any claims about the superiority of Chinese Communist science in connec­tion with its nuclear program.”28 ISAS’s work on solid propellant research also raised eyebrows. It was noted, for example, that the Mu series of rockets, which were being developed by ISAS in collaboration with firms like Nissan and Mitsubishi, had the potential to evolve incrementally to an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM). Under these circumstances NASA could not but tread cautiously, above all in the domain of launchers, and notably since NSAM334 of July 1965 specifically prohibited technological assistance to foreign entities that might enable them to acquire independent access to the geostationary orbit for comsats (chapter 3).

That said, it is all the more remarkable that in 1969 the two governments signed an agreement to provide Thor Delta technology to Japan. The steps taken by the president and the State Department to draw closer to Tokyo after the Chinese nuclear test in 1964 planted the seeds of this agreement. Those initial contacts, however, were limited to discussions of what might be done at a general level to foster space collaboration between the countries. The narrowing down of the field to one major project required a determined push by senior officials in the State Department against the wishes of NASA and other arms of the admin­istration. This episode is important enough to merit a study of its own, and is handled in depth in chapter 10.