Category NASA in the World

Technological Component: The Software

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

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

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

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

Technological Component: The SoftwareBROADCAST SATELLITE BRINGS


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

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

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

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

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

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

US-India Foreign Relations

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

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

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

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

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

Space Collaboration Today: The ISS

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

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

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

Vikram Sarabhai and Homi J. Bhabha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The President Commits to the International Space Station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

competence for designing and building sophisticated hardware involved in space

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

NASA Prepares for Collaboration

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

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

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

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

The Satellite as a New Plow for Rural Farmers: NASA,. Hasselblad Cameras, Coconut Wilt Disease, and. the Origins of Remote Sensing in India

Among the developing countries only Brazil and India have advanced remote sensing capabilities. Ideas of using modern remote sensing techniques for observing natural resources began to take shape in the late 1960s. Many scientists were sent by Brazil and India to US institutions, mainly MIT and Stanford, for basic training in the use of remote sensing technology. Beginning in the 1920s, black-and-white aerial photography was used for land survey and river assessments. Multispectral imagery was introduced in the 1970s.52 The availability of revolutionary Landsat images produced by a series of American earth observation satellites in the 1970s opened new pos­sibilities for the Indian planners to use this technology for the management of natural resources.53 These images were used extensively for surveys and for tracking natural vegetation.54 The promise of this new technology led to the institutionalization of remote sensing in India.55 NASA played an important part in the evolution of the technique by training scientific personnel and providing scientific and technological instruments to promote this new field. This helped impart technological know-how to the Indian scientists enabling them to build the first Indian Remote Sensing (IRS) satellite. The eminent Indian scientist P. D. Bhavsar viewed remote sensing in India to be full of cooperative and collaborative efforts, between scientists and engineers, tech­nologists and bureaucrats, planners and decision-makers, at all levels, within and across national boundaries, between the technically advanced and devel­oping nations, and between developing nations themselves.56 What follows is a short account of the relationship between NASA and India since the early 1970s in the field of remote sensing.

As stated in the previous chapter, the UN conference on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space held at Vienna in August 1968 was an important milestone. It was attended by delegates from many countries who presented papers that dealt with applications of aircraft-based remote sensing in agriculture, forestry, soil mapping, watershed inventory and planning, pest and disease detection, map­ping of forest fires, range surveys, hydrology and water resources development, and geological applications. The EROS, Earth Resources Observations Satellite program of the US Department of Interior, was discussed for the first time. One of the major objectives described was “to disseminate data collected by the satel­lite to appropriate scientists in order to facilitate assessment of land and water resources of the U. S. and other nations desirous of this information.” The con­ference also discussed in great detail all facets of international cooperation and opportunities, including economic, legal, and social problems of the exploration and use of outer space.

The decade following this conference saw a great spurt in the international collaborative activities in the field of remote sensing. In its initial phase these activities were almost entirely bilateral. On September 28, 1969, US president Richard Nixon told the UN General Assembly that America would proceed with its earth resources program so as to share the benefits of its work in this field with other nations “as this program proceeds and fulfills its promise.” In accor­dance with UN General Assembly resolution 2600 (XXIV), NASA concentrated on actions to inform the international community about the evolving American program, to offer orientation and training, and to mount aircraft-based pro­grams in preparation for the later use of satellite data.57

After this UN meeting Vikram Sarabhai constituted a small group at the space physics division of the Space Science and Technology Centre (SSTC) in Trivandrum to develop remote sensing. This small group was later moved to the Physical Research Laboratory, PRL, in Ahmedabad. It was expanded and later moved to Space Applications Centre, SAC, located in Ahmedabad under the eminent meteorologist and father of remote sensing in India, P. R. Pisharoty.58

The first interdepartmental meeting was convened by ISRO in December 1969 for acquainting the policymakers and departmental chiefs about the potentialities of remote sensing for earth resources surveys. About 40 members representing vari­ous organizations attended this meeting59 and several members of parliament and a number of Indian policymakers in the government attended for part of the time. As a result of this, it was decided to conduct a small remote sensing project for the early detection of the blight disease, which affected the coconut plantations. This wilt disease devastated coconut plantations in the Travancore-Cochin area of the Kerala state in Southern India. It affected about one hundred thousand acres of coconut plantations and was estimated to cause an annual loss of about $2 million. Hence any method of early detection was of great economic value to the state of Kerala. It was decided to carry out an aircraft survey for this purpose. It was also decided to conduct this work with minimum expenditure by utilizing the existing facilities and manpower of the ISRO. Coincidentally, ISRO’s Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station was also situated in this locality and the detection of coconut wilt disease using an aerial remote sensing technique was taken up as a good oppor­tunity for justifying the usefulness of a space research program to the nation.

ISRO communicated this interest to NASA and their request was forwarded to Edwin Henry Roberts, an expert scientist in agriculture and forestry remote sensing at the University of California, Berkeley.60 Roberts suggested it was pos­sible to identify diseased trees through aerial remote sensing at an early phase of the disease. Further, at ISRO’s request, NASA arranged to send one scientist from Roberts’s lab in early 1970, to help in taking the necessary photographs. The pro­gram was accommodated in the existing agreement for the conduct of scientific experiments between two space research agencies of India and the U. S.

As a collaborative effort between India and NASA, two 70-mm Hasselblad cameras and films were loaned to India. The helicopter was given to TERLS by the Hydro Meteorological Services (HMS) of the USSR, an agency that collabo­rated with ISRO on scientific work in rocket meteorology and upper atmosphere studies. It took photographs from a height of about one thousand feet using Kodak infrared films and panchromatic black-and-white films using different color filters. A total of about four hundred infrared false color (these images are produced by coloring the invisible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum) and black-and-white pictures were taken over a period of five days. Most of the pho­tographs showed very fine details and were found to contain very valuable infor­mation. The photographic results confirmed that the disease could be detected by the new technique even before visual symptoms appeared.

The success of the aforementioned program led ISRO to plan a continuing future program. As a second step, ISRO took up the project to complete an infra­red scanner for aircraft use. The infrared scanner was constructed in France at the laboratories of CNES by an Indian scientist and an engineer in collaboration with a French group. It was used for the thermal mapping of oceans and land areas from an aircraft platform. Many scientists were sent to American institutions along with P. R. Pisharoty to learn the benefits of using remote sensing technology.

To convince the Indian bureaucracy, a test was conducted to show how remote sensing technologies could be used for addressing agricultural prob­lems that were faced by India. In 1973 user agencies participated in a seminar on remote sensing, and specially prepared papers were presented on the role of space technology in various application areas to convince the user depart­ments of their importance. Such efforts not only promoted the applications, but also established a healthy trend where the user agencies defined the sensor needs for the satellite, a key factor in the success of the program. To introduce remote sensing technology for applications in various fields the National Remote Sensing Agency, NRSA, was set up in 1975 under the Department of Science and Technology, which became the nucleus of Indian remote sensing. It was involved in the training and education of scientists.

Six years after NASA had launched Landsat 1 (ERTS-1) in 1972, NRSA nego­tiated a deal to receive Landsat data directly in India by setting up a receiving station. The governments of the United States and India signed a memorandum of understanding, which covered the services to be offered to India and the terms of payment to the United States. NRSA sent its engineers for training to the United States in order to help set up a Landsat receiving station in Hyderabad, located in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which was commissioned in 1979. The station was expanded in later years to receive data from the French SPOT, the European Remote Sensing Satellite (ERS-1), and the US NOAA meteorological satellites, Canada’s Radarsat, and India’s own Indian Remote Sensing, IRS, series of satellites. The follow-on second generation IRS satellites, IRS-1C and IRS-1D, with better spectral and spatial resolution, stereo viewing and on-board recording capabilities further added to the country’s remote sensing ability.

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).

NASA and an Indian Launcher

The sounding rocket program in India provided an important stimulus to the devel­opment of an indigenous capability in rocketry from as early as 1961. In that year G. B. Pant, a scientist based in the Birla Institute of Technology, expressed a desire for assistance in establishing a Department of Rocketry at the university level in India. His request was refused citing the potential strategic military implications.61 The United States had no security agreement with India under which assurances were given for the protection of sensitive information.62 However, in 1964, Professor Pant again approached NASA with the “endorsement” of Sarabhai seeking NASA support for the assignment of an American academic expert in solid rocket pro­pulsion theory to spend a year initiating a research program at the Birla Institute. The US Department of State gave a favorable response and NASA arranged with Princeton University to send Maurice Webb to work on the theoretical aspects of rocket propulsion. After the completion of Webb’s “tour-of duty” Pant again asked for two experts in the field of propulsion and aerodynamics. By this time Sarabhai was also planning to come over to the United States to recruit fifteen people for a solid rocket development program in India under the auspices of INCOSPAR. India was building French Centaure rockets under license with Sud-Aviation and Hideo Itokawa at Tokyo University (see chapter 9) was providing consulting assis­tance.63 Situating Pant’s request in this broader context (and aware of even greater Indian ambitions, to be discussed in a moment), Frutkin sent a cautionary confiden­tial memo on August 25, 1965, to J. Wallace Joyce, acting director, International Scientific and Technology Affairs in the Department of State about the risk of supporting such an academic endeavor. As he explained, NASA had “so far care­fully avoided contributing to rocket development programs abroad.” Several other Asian countries, including Pakistan and Indonesia, were interested in developing rockets and once the agency had helped one it would necessarily become embroiled in helping the others. Frutkin concluded by remarking that while NASA wanted to accommodate the State Department’s wishes, it was concerned that “assistance in the Birla program as now understood might compromise NASA’s international space responsibilities, involve NASA in a difficult precedent with regard to other countries, and might contribute to nationalistic competition with military implica­tions,” most obviously as regards India and Pakistan.64

The Chinese nuclear test in October 1964 triggered greater ambitions. Both Homi Bhabha and Vikram Sarabhai discussed the possibility of cooperating with NASA in building a launch vehicle as one response to the loss of prestige to their communist rival. The discussions centered on procuring the technology of the all-solid four-stage Scout rocket. Commonly called the “poor man’s rocket,” it was capable of launching satellites weighing close to 100 pounds into low – earth orbit. In February 1965, Bhabha asked Frutkin about the cost and time factors for the development of a small satellite booster system. The results were predictable. Frutkin reminded him that whereas the Scout had been approved by the Department of State as available in principle for purchase by other coun­tries in connection with scientific research, the transfer of this technology as such posed a quite different problem. Granted the security aspects, this was “a matter for determination by the Department of State under Munitions Control procedures.”65

Bhabha’s visit to inquire into the possibilities of acquiring Scout rockets trig­gered a major exchange between Frutkin and Robert F. Packard in the State Department, who was interested in finding ways to assist India regain regional influence without developing nuclear weapons. He sought detailed advice on India’s ability to engage in a range of programs, from launching its own satellite outside India with foreign assistance using a foreign launch vehicle to launch­ing an Indian satellite as a solely national enterprise, as France would do in November 1965 with its Diamant/Asterix (launcher/satellite) combination.66

Frutkin responded in detail to the queries and did not think that India could do too much in the short term. Regarding the time frame, he pointed out that even if India made fundamental progress in major areas in the development of a booster within five years, US, Japanese, and French experience suggested that India could not complete a total booster system in this time. Comparing the Indian case with France and Japan he noted that the Japanese had been working on solid propellant technology for close to ten years with a fairly large industrial base without any concrete results. Similarly, the French had been working for at least six or seven years toward building a satellite launch vehicle without reaching their objective. Frutkin noted that India might also have difficulty with respect to several systems that go with the launcher—telemetry, command, guidance, test, and check out systems. He categorically stated that such an extensive program would “preempt all of the known Indian competence in the necessary areas for a period of years roughly related to the period of time used by France and Japan.” As regards cost, this was likely to be $55-65 million—$ 45 million for building a launcher. Add another $11-15 million for launch facilities: Frutkin pointed out that Thumba was small and not a conducive location for satellite launching, so a launch site on the East coast was needed.67

Of course cost and schedule could be reduced with foreign assistance. Sarabhai had apparently already done a cost analysis of a “partially independent Indian booster development program for a Scout type vehicle at $ 25 million using French and Japanese technology.”68 He added that an “indigenous” satel­lite would cost around “2-4 million and would take the Indians three years with foreign assistance.” If India sought the help of Japan and France, the country “could probably produce a satellite launch vehicle in 8-10 years.” Sarabhai esti­mated that if US assistance was forthcoming this could be reduced to seven – eight years.69

Should the United States help speed up the “Indian National” booster pro­gram the time required could be reduced substantially. Frutkin noted that Scout guidance, for example, was not classified and could very likely be made available to India under existing policy (this system is essentially an attitude reference sys­tem with limited value for strategic purposes). Nevertheless, substantial numbers of personnel would be required to work in India, with inevitable publicity and high costs.70 In short, if the United States agreed to cooperate, it would be only “partially an indigenous development” and the whole process would “involve highly visible foreign assistance” so defeating the purpose of boosting India’s prestige in the subcontinent using space technology.

There was an alternative: cost and time could be significantly reduced if the Indians were to use a Scout in America. If, as in the case of the Italian San Marco project (see chapter 2), the arrangement were to be a cooperative one between NASA and the Indians, NASA could provide the launch vehicles at a cost of about $3 million to the United States. This latter alternative assumed that the project would be of sufficient scientific or political value to America to justify direct US involvement and expenditure, of course.

Nothing came of these initial approaches. While work at TERLS engaged Indian energies in the latter half of the 1960s, Sarabhai promoted the indigenous production of launch vehicles through the incremental development of sounding rockets. This is evident from his address at the UN conference in Vienna and the institutional developments directed toward the needs of a budding launch vehicle program.

At the UN Conference in Vienna in 1968 Sarabhai spoke about the importance of an indigenous capability, fully aware of the difficulty of getting foreign assis­tance: “[T]he military overtones of a launcher development program of course complicate the free transmittal of technology involved in these applications.”71 By 1968 he had already done a cost analysis of building a launch vehicle program and the required ground systems, including a launch pad on the eastern sea coast. He factored in the costs of a scientific pool for supporting a fully fledged program.72 Reports and published sources indicate that at this time India made its first-ever study for developing its own Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV).

The Chinese launched Long March I (CZ-1) on April 24, 1970, placing the Dong Fang Hong (the East is Red) DFH-1 satellite in low-earth orbit. Though launched a few months after the Japanese launch of the Osumi satellite in February 1970 using the Japanese Lambda rocket, the Chinese launch triggered an outcry in India. The debate in India, soon after launch, centered on whether the country should develop a nuclear deterrent against China—India had refused to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) brokered by the United States, the USSR, and the United Kingdom in 1968—and the resultant opinion was highly in favor of one. The then defense minister Swaran Singh “reaffirmed” before the Indian par­liament that he would “review the possibilities for an accelerated space program.”73 This triggered another effort by Sarabhai to obtain US cooperation in building an Indian launching capability including guidance and control technology.

An April 1970 memo from the American Embassy in Delhi to the State Department, after detailing the situation in India, warned that “US denial would generate serious irritation in Indo-US relations, would turn Indians to other sup­pliers and would inhibit our capacity to monitor Indian space research develop­ments, and our ability to influence developments toward peaceful rather than military applications.”74 Another such dispatch a few months later reiterated these points.75 However, here the negative arguments far outweighed the pro argu­ments for any meaningful cooperation. “India’s overall economic development could be imprudently retarded by major expenditures in atomic and rocket fields”: something else was needed to contain hunger in the rural areas. Helping India would also send the wrong signals to China and Pakistan concerning American policy on international military applications of science and technology. If the United States provided technology to India and not to other interested coun­tries it would have “corrosive effects” on US relations elsewhere. A “premature US commitment” could also “inadvertently nudge Government of India’s pro­gram into direction Indians might later find fruitless, with possible consequent recriminations against U. S.” The US government was also aware of the rhetoric of the Indian political elite that “only a nuclear equipped India can win a rightful place in counsels of major powers.” US support would “stimulate advanced rocket development” and enhance the early development of “Indian nuclear weapons system.” The United States, as the architect of NPT and an opponent of Indian nuclear weapons development, would not even indirectly wish to facilitate such an Indian decision. In light of these considerations, the embassy recommended a flexible long-range policy of selective cooperation and restraint whereby the United States could provide India unclassified technology and other types of assistance directed toward India’s peaceful economic and social development.76

The State Department looked into these possibilities from various angles bearing in mind the agreement being reached with Japan over the provision of unclassified Thor-Delta technology (chapter 10). Anthony C. E. Quainton, senior political officer for India in the department, discussed possibilities with U. Alexis Johnson who struck the deal with Tokyo. He favored a joint collabora­tion with the Indians up through the Scout level in unclassified technology on propulsion systems without financial support and with suitable assurances about peaceful use.77 In December 1970 Joseph T. Kendrick sent a proposal to Robert A. Clark of Munitions Control (MC) asking him to agree to assist India on simi­lar terms as agreed between the United States and Japan. Clark’s reply indicated that he had no policy objection to the substance of the proposal. However, he expressed reservations about sending the proposal to Johnson for approval as it had not been discussed with NASA and the DOD who had been unhappy with the Japanese arrangement. Clark drew attention to the vagueness of the offer to cooperate in the development of a limited space program “up to and including the general level of Scout Rocket Technology.” Clark said that he knew “from personal experience that Indian officials are aggressive and persistent individuals who might be more likely to cry foul whenever they believe correctly or incor­rectly that their understandings differ from someone else’s understandings.” Thus, wrote Clark, “the USG position on what Scout technology means should be prepared in advance and not left to chance as has been done with the Japanese and Thor-Delta technology”78—a nice example of bureaucratic learning.

Three years later we find that, though critical elements of launch vehicle technology were denied, the declassified State Department papers indicate the approval of some “hardware” related to sounding rockets and satellites, which were “unsophisticated in character.” However, the Indian space program was still closely watched for potential ballistic missile activities. As the memo put it, “So far, the Indian program appears peaceful in character—as the Indians claim— but it is developing the technological capability for a missile system should the Government of India opt for this course.”79

The last available discussion on the subject was in a confidential memo from John Sipes to Joseph Scisco on June 27, 1973, requesting the formulation of a departmental position on whether it would be in the overall interest of the United States to assist India in the development of its space program. The ques­tion was prompted because the Office of Munitions Control had received a num­ber of requests from industry for Department of State approval to export space hardware and technology for India’s space program. The hardware included components such as gyros and accelerometers, which were essential for the guid­ance and control of launch vehicles and missiles.80 Sipes brought up the Japanese case of Thor-Delta technology transfer for comparison and explained how the Japanese had undertaken to use the launch vehicle and satellites developed with US assistance on condition that they would be used for peaceful purposes only and in line with the Intelsat agreements. This was not the case with India. In fact in April the Indian government announced that it was developing missiles for its armed services. Sipes asked rhetorically whether US help to India with satellite and launcher development would further “world peace and the security and the foreign policy of the United States.” He concluded that it was not “prudent to permit the release of space hardware and technology” especially gyros and accel­erometers, which were critical for inertial navigation systems.81

A Scout license production agreement never made its way into India. The Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, Sarabhai’s sudden demise in December 1971, and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosion (PNE) by India in 1974 all undermined the possibilities of cooperation between NASA and India in sensitive technolo­gies.82 To make matters worse from Washington’s point of view, in the light of the alienation with the United States the-then prime minister Indira Gandhi sought increased friendship with Moscow, which led eventually to the success­ful launch of three Indian satellites by the Soviet Union.83 This is not to say that NASA had no regrets. A recent interview with Arnold Frutkin captures the dilemma that NASA and the State Department faced when it came to sharing launch vehicle technology. The issue, as he stressed, “was slanted by the fear that India would be using it as a delivery weapon for—a delivery vehicle for a weapon.” Frutkin was discussing the acquisition of a Scout with India at the time, and was convinced that “in the long run India would have what it wanted by way of a delivery vehicle or a space vehicle, and either they would have it with our goodwill and friendship or they would have it over our dead bodies.” His preference was plainly for some kind of collaborative arrangement, and he personally regretted that the United States had not been more forthcom­ing, leading to Indian resentment and a decline in relations, all of which, in Frutkin’s view, “could have been sidestepped by working with India to arrive at just where they are today.”84