Category NASA in the World

The President Commits to the International Space Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

NASA Prepares for Collaboration

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

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

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

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

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.

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

European Reactions to Reagan’s Proposal

There was considerable interest in the space station in Europe. Following on Pedersen’s invitation, in June 1982 NASA and ESA agreed that the European agency finance Phase A industrial studies on both utilization aspects and potential hardware contributions. Later that year the ESA Council, with some difficulty, drummed up support for studies on “maintaining in Europe an inde­pendent launch capability, developing a European in-orbit infrastructure, and pursuing transatlantic cooperation through participation in the future United States space program.”27

This formulation was meant to be flexible enough to accommodate the diverse needs of the member states, notably the drivers of the European space effort, France and Germany. As Niklas Reinke points out, both were committed to the idea of a space station, although their political motives differed. The fed­eral minister for research and technology, Heinz Riesenhuber, who took office in October 1982 “wanted substantial European participation in the American programme, with Germany in the lead; France was interested in the technical know-how to be gained from a space station but was wary of becoming involved again in such close cooperation with the United States.”28 Germany’s prime aim was to build on its Spacelab experience, expanded to include the development of reusable space platforms like the free-flying pallet suitable for commercial and scientific experiments called Eureca (EUropean REtrievable CArrier).29 It teamed up with Italy to fund industrial studies of pressurized models derived from Spacelab and an unmanned platform that were combined together in a program it called Columbus.30

In January 1984, just a week before President Reagan made his State of the Union address announcing that he would support the space station, the German and Italian delegations suggested to their partners in ESA that they might like to participate in the development of Columbus. This was now a generic name for a research module to be attached to the space station plus one or more free-flying platforms for more complex experiments in science and applications, above all microgravity.

Representatives of the member states of ESA, meeting at ministerial level in Rome in January 1985, defined their priorities for the next phase of their joint space effort. The ministers spelt out the principles that should guide their partici­pation in the joint venture. They sought European “responsibility for the design, development, exploitation and evolution of one of several identifiable elements of the space station together with responsibility for their management.” They also wanted to have “access to, and use, on a non-discriminatory basis, of all elements of the space station system on terms that are as favorable as those granted to the most-favored users and on a reciprocal basis.”31 The ministers also expressed strong support for Columbus, whose precise content would “depend on the terms and conditions of the partnership agreement concluded with the United States.”32

The enthusiasm generated by the Phase A studies, and the support of the min­isters meeting in Rome in January, quickly led to the signature of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between ESA and NASA in June 1985. It dealt with the conduct of parallel detailed definition and preliminary design studies (Phase B studies). (Similar agreements were signed with Canada and Japan.) The MoU specifically identified a key milestone in March 1986, about halfway through the planned definition phase, at which NASA and ESA would mutually agree on the composition of the Columbus program that would be carried forward for the remainder of the definition phase. This second Phase B2 was scheduled to run from April 1986 to March 1987. Tough negotiations between the two agencies over the Columbus content delayed the start of Phase B2 by over six months to November 1987.33 In parallel, starting in 1986, bilateral discussions were begun between the potential European partners and the United States on establishing the legal instruments governing the space station. The European group insisted that these be conducted on two levels. They wanted bilateral MoUs between NASA and the partner agencies for defining how cooperation in the design, the construction, and the operation of the space station and its constituent elements could and should be implemented in practice. The MoUs were subsumed under a single intergovernmental agreement (IGA) defining the policy guidelines and legal principles that would govern collaboration between the United States and the member states of ESA, Canada, and Japan. These various instruments were signed by almost all parties at the end of September 1988. NASA’s MoU with its Japanese counterpart was signed in March 1989.34

Europe’s phase B1 proposals had three main elements. The first was a pres­surized module that could either be tethered to the station or detached and used in a human-tended, free-flying mode. The second was a retrievable platform derived from the Eureca concept that would be placed in an orbit near the space station. The third was the polar platform that was intended as a “workhorse” for earth observation missions in polar orbits and whose scientific interest was enhanced by growing concerns about environmental degradation and climate change in the early 1990s.35

ESA was particularly interested in the first of these elements. Its dual-config­uration, tethered or free-flying, allowed it to be used as a Spacelab-like environ­ment for scientific experiments as well as a small autonomous European space station to acquire capabilities in rendezvous and docking procedures, and in the use of automation and robotics. NASA rejected the scheme—the space station would not be big enough nor would it have enough electrical power for each nation to operate its module both docked and untethered. Europe complied by restricting this component to a permanently attached pressurized module (APM), which was the length of four Spacelab segments and was to be used for materials science, fluid physics, and life-sciences experiments. ESA then suc­cessfully demanded that it develop a separate laboratory, the man-tended free – flyer (MTFF), to be operated in a microgravity-optimized orbit.36 The MTFF fulfilled some of the original mission requirements of the Eureca platform and retained the potential of evolving into a permanent autonomous space station. Thus in the Columbus configuration eventually agreed on in 1987, the MTFF and the polar platform (PPF) “were. . . the elements that were to carry the ban­ner for Europe’s autonomy in space, while the APM, as a fully integrated part of the station, had to be adapted to fit American ideas.”37

The disagreements between ESA and NASA were not restricted to hardware contributions; they extended to use. It seems that during the negotiations over the final cooperative agreements the United States did not want Europe to per­form microgravity research in materials science, even in its own part of the sta­tion. Only the United States was to be allowed to use any part of the station for experiments of commercial promise. As McCurdy puts it:

Because of strong congressional and presidential interest in the commercial

potential of space, NASA would eventually insist that it be allowed to build the

materials-processing lab. That would leave the Europeans with the less glam­orous task of building the life sciences lab. To conduct materials-processing experiments, the Europeans would have to use a U. S. module. Furthermore, they could not just float in and use it. The experiments would have to be scheduled on the basis of international agreements acceptable to all of the partners and based on their relative contributions to the station.38

This situation did not persist. As Peggy Finarelli stressed in an interview with the author, “the utilization plan of any partner, what they wanted to put on the Station, how they used their resources was their call. [ . . . ] There was absolutely no carving up like ‘You can do this and you can’t do that.’ We have unilateral rights to do this.”39

Then there was the question of military use. At the end of 1986 the United States raised the question in general terms of the use of the space station for mili­tary research related to SDI. This threatened to derail the whole process. Japan was totally against the idea. ESA’s convention specifically committed the agency to peaceful use, and no backsliding would be tolerated by the “neutral” member states—Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland. Indeed this issue caused such con­sternation that “early in 1987, the view was expressed in German government circles that, although it was perhaps not necessary to think about breaking off the negotiations just yet, the positions had become irreconcilable.”40 Caspar Weinberger attempted to still these fears by submitting a list of possible military experiments to be conducted on the station that he thought should be unobjec­tionable. It made little difference. When the representatives of the ESA member states, meeting at ministerial level in November 1987, adopted a long-term space plan that committed them to participation in the station, they thought it fit to include a special clause regarding peaceful use in their resolution.41 In the final agreements the space station was defined as being “civil” and “for peaceful pur­poses, in accordance with international law” (see also chapter 1). The US chief negotiator placed on record that his country “has the right to use its elements, as well as its allocations of resources derived from the Space Station infrastruc­ture, for national security purposes.”42 This was coupled with a clause in the agreement that allowed any partner (including Japan) to refuse that its attached module be used by a military body.43

Peggy Finarelli, who was involved in the negotiation of these agreements on behalf of NASA, provided an insider’s perspective in an interview in 2010. She stressed that the “creative ambiguity” over the meaning of the term “peaceful” in the Outer Space Treaty allowed all the adherents to sign on while maintaining their separate perspectives. Put simply, for the United States the term “peaceful” meant “non-aggressive,” while for her partners the term meant “non-military” (see chapter 1). The disagreement was so deep that “we cancelled one of the scheduled negotiating sessions because everybody was waiting for government instructions on this. That was closest we came, really, to losing it in the negotia­tions over that issue.” The dispute was resolved when “we finally agreed that each of us would use our own territory on the Station according to our own definition of peaceful purposes.” There has been a convergence of attitudes since then, she suspects, “everybody’s evolved more to the U. S. perspective” as “space becomes more and more useful for military, nonaggressive purposes.”44

Another source of friction between the partners arose over the handling of cost increases on the NASA side. As was mentioned earlier, in 1983 Beggs put a figure of $8 billion (in 1984 dollars) on space station development, the amount that the NASA administrator thought the president could accept. In October 1985 NASA officials announced that they had adopted a “dual-keel” design for what would be a multifunctional space station with foreign participation.45 A year later its cost was estimated to be $14.5 billion (1984 dollars). Then in April 1987, under pressure to reduce costs further, NASA announced a “revised baseline configuration” with a cost estimate of $12.2 billion (1984 dollars). This omitted the cost of operations, an emergency crew return vehicle, and the cost of transporting hardware into space with the shuttle.46 NASA signed contracts for four “work packages” with aerospace contractors.

President Reagan baptized the new configuration Space Station Freedom, a name that hearkened back to the State of the Union address in January 1984 in which he had said, “We are first, we are the best, and we are so because we are free.”47 As Finarelli remarked, it also made clear that “[t]he Space Station was clearly one of the nation’s Cold War high-technology infrastructure projects undertaken at least in part to demonstrate our leadership vis-a-vis the Soviets, and part of that leadership is showing that people will follow your lead in what you choose to do”48—as did the Europeans.

The Europeans played a major role in shaping the final agreements on partici­pation in Space Station Freedom. Their financial contributions were substantial: at the time, about twice what was expected from Japan and four times more than Canada. They also brought far more historical baggage to the negotiating table.

What of Canada and Japan? Canada had built the Remote Manipulator System (or Canadarm) for the shuttle. It had established its reputation as a reliable part­ner that could be trusted to build technological elements that were critical to mission success. Three main reasons determined its decision to join in the sta­tion. First, the in-orbit assembly and operations of the station provided it with an opportunity to further valorize its acquired experience in automation and robot­ics. Second, it was attracted by the polar-orbit earth observation facility, which could provide remote sensing data for many of its needs. Finally, the Canadian authorities were persuaded that the space station would “alter dramatically many of the established ways of operating in space.” Joining the American project along with Western Europe and Japan would provide a platform for “new business rela­tionships and cooperative programs with the world’s major space nations.”49 For Canada, then, foreign policy concerns were overshadowed by the possibilities for expanding its existing industrial capabilities and markets in high technology, for consolidating space cooperation with partners other than the United States, and for providing remote sensing data that covered its vast geographical space.50

Japan’s engagement with the space station had a different trajectory.51 It had long been champing at the bit to develop its own, autonomous space program. Many felt that it had, for too long, been under foreign technological tutelage. Though NASA had helped Japan develop launchers, it had denied it access to cutting-edge technologies and had restricted the payloads that the country could launch with “its” rockets (see chapter 10). It seemed clear that to fully reap the benefits of the conquest of space Japan needed to have its own launcher. Could it afford to do so (at a development cost of $1 billion), and at the same time accept

President Reagan’s offer in January 1984 to join in the space station? The famed MITI (Ministry of International Trade and Industry) and a group of major Japanese industries were persuaded that it was imperative not to “miss the boat” on manned space flight, as Japan had done on post-Apollo. However, Japan also wanted an indigenous launcher that would not be subject to US restrictions on use. It eventually adopted a two-track approach. It developed a “made in Japan” H-2 launcher that proved to be neither a commercial nor a technological suc­cess.52 Its contribution to the space station was a Japanese Experiment Module (JEM), also called Kibo (meaning hope).

Two Disputes over Geostationary Satellite Launches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Formalizing the Collaboration

The legal instruments codifying the design, construction, and use of the space station (bilateral MoUs between agencies and an IGA between the governments) were signed after 15 rounds of negotiations over three years in September 1988. The flexibility available to NASA and the American delegation was constrained by a number of requirements. One of the most contentious of these, as we have seen, was that they had to “explicitly reserve the right to conduct national secu­rity activities on the U. S. elements of the Space Station, without the approval or review of other nations.” They were also not to “accede to multilateral decision­making on matters of Space Station management, utilization, or operation.” Technology transfer was to be controlled by not permitting a “one-way flow of U. S. space technology to participating nations who are also our competitors.” And finally, they were to ensure that the concept of “equal partnership” did not “displace either the reality or symbol of U. S. leadership.”53

The Europeans were reasonably satisfied with the final agreements. Take the question of management. In the midst of the negotiations Pedersen publicly wrote that “perhaps [the] most difficult leadership adjustment for NASA is to learn to share direct management and operational control in projects where it is the largest hardware and financial contributor, especially when manned flight systems are involved.” How did the legal instruments respect this? On decision­making procedures, for example, it was agreed that although the United States would be responsible for the overall coordination of the program, the Europeans had jurisdiction and control over their three Columbus elements. The United States and Canada were attributed 49 percent utilization of the APM in return for their contributions to the core elements of the station. Europe also had access to the whole station. And it was allowed to use its space transport system and communications equipment, in addition to having access to those that the United States would provide. This meant that the MTFF and the PFF would be launched by Ariane.54

The management practices were shaped by the architecture of the project. At the macro-level this restricted technology transfer to flows across clean inter­faces. NASA alone would build the core of the station. This core would be augmented by discrete hardware elements that would be dedicated to scientific and/or manufacturing research of potential commercial interest. Only Canada’s robotic arm for assembly was critical to mission success.55

What of “genuine partnership”? Peggy Finarelli, who was among those who negotiated these agreements on behalf of NASA, explained that she was emphatically against the “metaphysical” phrase “genuine partnership” being included as such in the legal agreements. Instead she asked for a list of 25 things that constituted “genuine partnership,” “then we’ll negotiate on each of those twenty-five points, and, god knows we did. . . and twenty-five more. That’s why at the end of the day we were all happy with the agreement, even though it did not include that phrase.”56

Another traditional area of disagreement concerned the legal ties oblig­ing partners to sustain their commitment to the station once the project was embarked upon. As pointed out in the discussion of ISPM in chapter 2 , the Europeans were particularly sensitive to programmatic changes required of NASA by the annual revision of its budget allocation by Congress. They hoped to get around this by raising the space station agreements to the status of an international treaty. Finarelli insisted that this was not in anyone’s interest. As she put it:

What the partners wanted was a mechanism to make the space station agree­ments 100 percent binding, something that we would never be able to walk away from. Their thought was that a treaty tying in the US Congress would accomplish this goal. But we said: We can’t do it. Its impossible in our govern­ment. Even if we have a treaty, it’s still subject to the availability of appropri­ated funds [as required by the Antideficiency Act of 1982 that prohibited the incurring of obligations or the making of expenditures in excess of such funds]. So what you’re asking for, number one, does not accomplish the end that you would like to accomplish, and number two, you’re running the risk of putting a whole new set of players in this thing, many of whom hate the Space Station and don’t like NASA much either, meaning there’s a very high probability that the treaty would be rejected.57

In the event in the final agreement NASA (and all the parties) could still appeal to the lack of availability of funds as a reason for reconfiguring the project, though each signatory did formally undertake “to make its best efforts to obtain approval for funds” to meet its international obligations.58

An Overview of NASA-India Relations

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

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

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

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