Document created: 22 October 03
Air University Review, September-October 1973
Phillip O. Davis
William G. Holder
We of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are extremely pleased that President Nixon’s meeting with officials of the Soviet Union in Moscow has brought to fruition the most meaningful cooperation in space yet achieved by our two nations. We have been discussing the possibilities of such cooperation for some time now, and some important technical agreements had been reached earlier. Now, as President Nixon has announced, we have jointly agreed to firm these commitments into a definitized program and have begun to set up the timetable for various cooperative events to take place.
The most dramatic of these events will involve the rendezvous and docking of a U.S. spacecraft with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in 1975. It will be an earth orbital mission. A U.S. command-and-service module of the type we are now using in our Apollo moon missions will link up with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. While two spacecraft are docked together the astronauts and coastronauts will visit both spacecraft and perform a number of simple scientific tasks.
James C. Fletcher
When Dr. Fletcher, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, made that statement in May 1972, more than two years of negotiations between the Soviet Union and the United States had culminated in some success. It is hoped by space officials of both countries that this embryonic joint mission will be only the beginning for more ambitious joint space tasks during the remainder of the century. Joint exploration of space will enable both the U.S. and the Soviets to avoid duplication of missions and reduce the costs of space exploration. Such cooperative programs will enable both countries to expand their understanding of science and their development of new technologies.
The 1975 mission will receive a large part of the publicity in the field of space cooperation, although many other important accomplishments have been made through agreements between the U.S. and other countries. Compared to the technical achievements of the Apollo missions, this joint orbital mission appears less impressive, but advancement in the technical state of the art is not one of the major goals of this mission. Just being able to carry out even the meagerest of space missions with another country and interface with that country’s hardware is a significant accomplishment.
international cooperation in space
Toward the middle of the 1960s, the attitudes of the major space powers began to mellow toward each other, resulting in several significant agreements.
In 1966 an agreement under the auspices of the United Nations leading to the peaceful uses of outer space was formulated. The treaty banned weapons of mass destruction from outer space and stated that space-launched objects belong to the launching nation. Harmful experiments in space were also to be prevented.
During 1968 an agreement on the rescue and return of astronauts and space objects went into effect after some years of negotiation. The agreement stipulated that the authority for recovering and returning downed astronauts would lie with the country in which they came down. Rescue on the high seas was to be the responsibility of the launching country, although other countries in a position to give help were encouraged to do so.
This feeling of international cooperation was vividly dramatized during the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission. Many countries of the world responded as one in offering assistance to NASA. Cosmonaut Colonel Alexei Leonov of the U.S.S.R. stated that the Soviet Union took every possible action to help rescue the American astronauts.
Space cooperation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union flourished during 1970 and 1971. An agreement signed in 1971 by M. V. Keldish, President of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and George M. Low, Acting Director of NASA, outlined five areas for space cooperation between the two countries in these words:
The expansion of cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States in space research and exploration can speed the knowledge of the earth’s environment and surface features, increase opportunities to apply that knowledge for the benefit of man on Earth, contribute to the efficient planning of the scientific exploration of the universe, enhance the safety of man in space and permit application of biomedical knowledge gained from manned space flight to the well-being of man on Earth.
This agreement has resulted in a number of meetings between the two countries in many of the technical areas mentioned in the initial 1971 agreement. The first U.S./U.S.S.R. meeting on lunar cartography took place in Washington in May 1972. The purposes of the meeting were to enable exchange of lunar maps, to discuss techniques for preparation of such maps, and to establish a common coordinate reference system. The two countries have also exchanged lunar soil samples for analysis. Both countries’ experiences in manned space missions have been shared in recent space biology meetings, and the U.S. has presented to the U.S.S.R. preflight and postflight medical requirements and the flight crew health stabilization program for Apollo 16. The U.S.S.R. presentations to NASA have detailed the medical findings of the Soyuz/Salyut mission, including the postflight autopsies on the crew of the ill-fated Soyuz 11 mission. A detailed review and evaluation of the Soyuz/Salyut 23-day mission, the longest manned flight up to the recent Skylab mission, revealed no indication of a need to modify the Skylab spacecraft.
Although the negotiations with the Soviets have received the most publicity, NASA has about 250 agreements for international space projects and has participated in over 600 cooperative scientific rocket soundings from all over the world. About 50 countries receive data daily from U.S. weather satellites. NASA has also launched a number of foreign satellites from Cape Kennedy and the Western Test Range.
Future European participation in the 1970s is considered a real possibility. It has been unofficially mentioned that the Soviets and U.S. could cooperate in deployment of shuttles and consider the joint construction of space stations or even a joint venture to the planet Mars in the 1980s or 1990s.
But the space cooperation has not been restricted to that between the United States and other countries. The U.S.S.R. and France have done considerable space work together, which culminated in a French laser reflector being installed aboard the Lunokhod lunar roving vehicle. The French also had scientific instrumentation aboard the Soviet Mars 3 spacecraft. French laboratories are participating in studies of samples of lunar soil returned to the earth by the Luna 16 spacecraft. The communication line between Moscow and Paris, through the Molniya communications satellite, created through the joint work of Soviet and French scientists, has been used for conducting a number of experiments and the transmission of other data.
It is hoped that the 1975 U.S./U.S.S.R. mission will be merely a start for more ambitious joint ventures during the late 1970s and 1980s. World space leaders over the past several years have talked privately about a universal space station that would exploit the near-earth environment across the spectrum of applications, technology, and science. The station would have an international crew that would live together for periods of six months to two years. Such an ambitious undertaking would require the development of a management organization to insure that important tasks were provided for all participants without overwhelming domination by the major space powers. Along the same line of thinking, some segments of the American scientific community have suggested the possibility of an “International Skylab.”
planning joint U.S./U.S.S.R. space mission
Of the many meetings that have been held in the last few years between U.S. and U.S.S.R. officials about international cooperation in space, the most important one was that of President Nixon and Premier Alexei Kosygin held in Moscow on 24 May 1972. In the words of NASA Administrator James Fletcher, this meeting “brought to fruition the most meaningful cooperation in space yet achieved by our two nations.” It served as the culmination of a series of feasibility meetings that started on 28 October 1970 and marked the official position of the two countries on the joint mission. It also marked the beginning of the serious negotiations necessary for a successful fulfillment of the joint mission.
In April 1970, Dr. Thomas O. Paine, then NASA Administrator, contacted the Russians concerning a joint mission. On 11 July Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin made an appointment for his scientific counselor, Evgeniy Belov, with Dr. Philip Handler, president of the National Academy of Sciences. Belov told Handler that the Soviet Academy of Sciences was prepared to discuss common space docking systems. Handler then informed Dr. Paine about the Soviet docking overtures. On 31 July Paine in turn wrote to President Keldish of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, basically agreeing that a joint docking project should be considered. After several weeks of negotiations, an agreement was finally reached in October 1970 to send five NASA officials to Moscow for the first joint meeting: Dr. Robert R. Gilruth, Director of the Manned Spacecraft Center, Houston, Texas; Arnold W. Frutkin, Assistant Administrator for International Affairs; George B. Hardy, Chief of Program Engineering and Integration at George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama; Caldwell C. Johnson, Chief of Spacecraft Design Office at the Manned Spacecraft Center; and Glynn S. Lunney, Chief of Flight Director’s Office at the Houston center. At this first joint meeting on 28 October 1970, three important agreements were reached: (1) to design compatible rendezvous and docking systems for future manned spacecraft, (2) to institute a procedure by which the two sides could arrive at compatible systems, and (3) to establish three joint working groups (JWG).
The three JWG’S met for the first time at the Manned Spacecraft Center on 21-25 June 1971. According to the minutes of their meetings, the working groups agreed that the first experiment “might be the docking of an Apollo spacecraft with a manned orbital scientific station of the Salyut type and a subsequent experiment might be the docking of a manned spacecraft of the Soyuz type with an orbital station of the Skylab type.” The working groups recognized the many problems facing them before their task would be complete. The minutes of the meeting added that “the technical feasibility of accomplishing an experimental test of this type exists in principle and will be studied further by both sides.”
The third joint meeting between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. space officials took place 29 November to 6 December 1971 in Moscow. The three working groups covered a wide range of topics, including mission objectives, spacecraft configuration, launch window constraints, compatibility requirements for guidance and control equipment, and U.S. and U.S.S.R. docking systems. The JWG’S reiterated that a first joint mission involving the rendezvous and docking of an Apollo-type spacecraft and a Salyut-type space station appeared technically feasible and desirable. They established a list of milestones and agreed on the concept of a docking system adapted to the particular requirements of the Salyut space station and the Apollo spacecraft.
If the two sides had continued with this plan, numerous design changes would have been required by the Soviets on their Salyut space station. Since it has at present only one docking port, an additional port would have been required. The proposal was to remove the instrument compartment from the aft end of the Salyut and replace it with a second docking collar. Furthermore, this modification would have required the relocation of the Salyut attitude control thrusters and other critical equipment and would have necessitated removal of the orbit maneuvering engine. Because of these problems, the Soviets evidently decided against an Apollo-Salyut docking mission, and on 6 April 1972 they persuaded the U.S. to abandon the concept. A proposal was made at that time to consider the docking of a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft with an Apollo command and service module (CSM). This meeting also confirmed the desirability of the mission and set out agreed principles and procedures.
Next came the historic summit meeting between President Nixon and Premier Kosygin in late May 1972, resulting in the signing of an agreement on international cooperation in space. The agreement included the rendezvous and docking of existing U.S. and U.S.S.R. spacecraft in 1975.
Thus the stage was set for the fourth joint meeting between representatives of the two countries, which was held in Houston from 6 to 18 July 1972. The three JWG’S reached significant conclusions that, for the first time since the negotiations had begun, would permit both sides to proceed with detailed plans and hardware development. The basic agreements provided for the docking of a Soyuz and an Apollo CSM sometime in the second half of 1975, hopefully within the month of July. Design and development of an androgynous docking system could proceed, based on agreements made at the meeting. Additional agreements reached by the three JWG’S were that the Soyuz would be launched first, the U.S. would supply the U.S.S.R. with communications and ranging equipment for installation on the Soyuz, and launch window constraints were developed for both Apollo and Soyuz. Additionally, it was agreed that for future meetings the three JWG’S should be expanded to five.
One of the practices that was initiated in 1972 was the meeting of these separate working groups at various times and places in between the larger joint meetings. At the smaller meetings, much detail has been presented, with both sides getting down to the “nuts and bolts” of the proposed project.
At the fifth joint meeting of the working groups held in Moscow in October 1972, U.S. astronaut Thomas Stafford and U.S.S.R. cosmonauts Adrian Nikolayev and Alexei Yeliseyev joined the negotiations. Specific items discussed were crew selection, crew training, on-board documentation, crew work/rest cycles, crew interaction with the flight control centers, intership radio communications, and the language barrier. The most significant agreement reached at the meeting was to begin a 12-month test and experimental program of the docking apparatus. Working group number three, Docking Mechanism, wasted no time in getting down to business. They met in Moscow in mid-December 1972 and carried out tests on a scale model of the proposed docking mechanism.
At the 1973 joint meetings of the five working groups, discussions were held concerning details of the mission plan and specific hardware interfacing. Joint training of U.S. and U.S.S.R. potential crew members is scheduled to begin in 1973. A Russian crew is expected to train in the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator at Marshall Space Fight Center and in an Apollo simulator during the summer, and an American crew is expected to train in a Soyuz simulator in the fall.
hardware for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Program (ASTP)
For the joint mission, the U.S. selected the Apollo command and service module, and the Soviets selected the Soyuz spacecraft. The CSM was designed from its inception to be the transport vehicle to carry three astronauts from earth orbit to lunar orbit and return. The service module’s powerful engine was used to slow the spacecraft into lunar orbit and then boosted it back into a transearth trajectory. In its Apollo configuration, the CSM was mated to the lunar module, which during the translunar portion flipped around and was mated to the nose of the command module. This same technique will be employed in the U.S./U.S.S.R. mission with the common docking adaptor.
But the CSM will not be transitioned directly from its lunar application to the Soviet mission. Before the U.S./U.S.S.R. mission, the CSM will be employed in a mission more like its Apollo-Soyuz Test Program application. During the 1973 Skylab mission, three CSM’S will be boosted into orbit as shuttle vehicles for transporting the three-man crews to and from the Skylab space station. The Saturn IB, which was used to place the Apollo 7 spacecraft into orbit, will be the booster for the three CSM’S, all to be launched at Complex 39 of Cape Kennedy from a steel framework pedestal.
The proven Soyuz spacecraft, which has been launched with cosmonauts aboard ten times, was selected by the Soviets for the joint mission. The ill-fated Soyuz 1 mission in 1967 was the first launch of the spacecraft, which resulted in the death of Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov during re-entry. Later in the tragic Soyuz 11 flight, three cosmonauts were killed during descent, after spending 22˝ days in the Salyut space station. In the interim, however, there had been many productive flights.
The Soviets have stated that they will launch the Soyuz spacecraft using their standard launch vehicle, similar to the Vostok launch vehicle the Soviets displayed during the 1967 Paris Air Show. The vehicle consists of four strap-on boosters around a center sustainer, all burning at lift-off. Midway through the sustainer burn the boosters are jettisoned, and the sustainer continues to burn. The third stage then ignites to place the spacecraft into orbit. The vehicle provides about a million pounds of thrust at lift-off.
hardware characteristics and capabilities
The six-ton command module provides a living space of 210 cubic feet for three astronauts. The spacecraft is covered by an ablative material over a stainless-steel honeycomb heat shield and an aluminum honeycomb inner structure. The command module has a shirt-sleeve environment. At 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the life support system supplies 100 percent oxygen at a cabin pressure of 5 pounds per square inch. Electrical power is 28-volt d.c. and 115/200-volt 400-cycle a.c. provided by batteries and fuel cells.
Integral with the command module is the service module. Housed in the stage is the main propulsion system, which generates about 21,900 pounds of thrust, and the propellant tanks and systems supporting the command module and crew. These include the electrical system, reaction control systems, and part of the environmental control systems. The service module stands 22 feet high, including the engine nozzle extension. The service module has a launch weight of about 55,000 pounds, and its propulsion system is used for final orbit insertion.
The Saturn IB launch vehicle is a two-stage vehicle consisting of the clustered S-IB first stage and the S-IVB second stage. Its 1.6 million pounds of thrust comes from eight H-1 engines. The S-IVB second stage is powered by a 205,000-pound-thrust J-2 engine, which employs liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants. The vehicle has the capability of placing 17 tons into low earth orbit.
The Soyuz spacecraft has been used for a variety of manned and unmanned long-duration missions. This spacecraft weighs about 14,500 pounds and consists of three basic compartments: the instrument module, the orbital module, and the descent module. The command module, located in the middle of the three compartments, is the crew compartment during launch, descent, and landing. Located forward of the command module and connected by a tunnel is the spherical orbital module, which is the location for crew work and rest. It also has been used as an airlock for extravehicular activities. The two habitable compartments provide a living volume of 320 cubic feet. The instrument compartment, which is unpressurized, contains the various subsystems required for power, communication, propulsion, and other functions.
Although the Soyuz in the past has carried three cosmonauts, for the joint mission only two will be aboard. It has an overall length of 26 feet and a diameter of 7.5 feet. The cabin atmosphere is 14.7 psi, with a nitrogen and oxygen atmosphere.
the docking system
A docking system will be carried into orbit by the American spacecraft and will establish a rigid link between the two spacecraft. The adaptor will be built by Rockwell International. In November 1972 NASA signed a $64 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the docking system.
The design calls for interface components to be identical for the mating units that will be constructed by each country. There will, however, be slight differences in subsystem design.
The operation of the docking system will have the U.S. crew extend the guide ring on its system and then move it into the Soyuz, meshing with three triangular-shaped guide rings. This action will engage three capture latches with body latches on the perimeter of the Soyuz structural ring. Acting as shock absorbers, the attenuators ensure that the capture latches can contact the body latches regardless of any vehicle misalignment during docking. Alignment of the structural latches is assured by a tapered socket and pin in the Apollo docking module structural ring. Redundancy is provided with dual latches for capture and structural latching.
ASTP mission plan
At the present time NASA and Soviet space officials are planning for the ASTP to be carried out in July of 1975. The Soviet Soyuz spacecraft will be launched first from Baikonur, carrying two cosmonauts into a 51.6-degree inclined orbit, and will have an orbital lifetime of about seven days. A second Soyuz will be prepared for launch in case the first Soyuz experiences a failure or the Apollo is delayed beyond the Soyuz orbital lifetime. Apollo launch windows are scheduled for 7.5, 31, and 54.5 hours after the Soyuz launch. The Apollo, which must fly a dogleg maneuver to reach the 51.6-degree inclination of the Soyuz, will carry three astronauts into orbit.
The Apollo spacecraft will carry additional reaction control system (RCS) propellants to give it sustained maneuvering capability during rendezvous and docking and to provide attitude control during the docked portion of the flight. For the first launch window, Apollo-to-Soyuz docking will occur on the Apollo’s fourteenth revolution over Spain.
Following a successful rendezvous and docking, with the Apollo spacecraft serving as the active vehicle, the two spacecraft will remain in the docked configuration for about 48 hours. Detailed time lines will be prepared and agreed to by both sides as regards the docked flight plan. The next day after docking, the crew transfer will commence. Two of the Apollo crew will visit the Soyuz craft and one of the Soyuz crew will visit the Apollo craft while the two vehicles are docked. Crew transfer will be achieved by use of the docking module. The Soyuz cabin pressure will be lowered from its normal atmosphere environment of 14.7 psi to 10 psi for the transfer, while the Apollo cabin pressure will remain at its 5-psi pure-oxygen level for the transfer. These pressures will permit the Soviet crew member to spend a minimum amount of time (25 minutes) in the docking module, where he will be pre-breathing pure oxygen. Once the respective crew members have transferred to each other’s spacecraft, the ASTP mission plan calls for a series of joint experiments and tests to be carried out. It is likely that joint photographic, spectrographic, and earth resources-related experiments will be included in the plan.
After the crew members return to their respective spacecraft, the two vehicles will separate, and each one will continue to orbit for a definite period of time (currently still undecided). The Apollo crew will probably perform extensive earth resource sensing experiments during their time remaining in orbit. The current ASTP plan calls for the crews to return to earth in their own spacecraft; however, both sides have agreed to permit crew members to return in the other’s spacecraft in the event of emergency.
It goes without saying that when the spacecraft of two different countries rendezvous in space, many technical and hardware problems must be and undoubtedly can be solved. But more problems may emerge in the unpredictable flesh-and-blood objects in the spacecraft.
In future joint missions, what will be the effect of international crews in orbit for many months? Of course there is no data base yet available to evaluate such a situation. The Soviets, however, have been evaluating the transoceanic expedition of an international crew on board a primitive boat, and several observations could be applicable to the ASTP situation: National peculiarities and language difficulties both had complicated effects on the group. The language difficulties appeared to present one of the dominant problems during the initial phases of the journey. (A number of NASA astronauts took courses in Russian in anticipation of the 1975 mission.) The ocean test also showed that psychological factors became more and more pronounced as the trip progressed.
During January of 1973 the U.S. crew for the ASTP was selected. The crew will consist of USAF General Thomas Stafford, a veteran of the Gemini and Apollo programs; Donald (“Deke”) Slayton, one of the original Mercury astronauts, who just recently requalified for flight status; and rookie Vance Brand.
The U.S.S.R. crew will consist of Alexei Leonov and Valeri Kubasov. Leonov performed the world’s first extravehicular activity (EVA) on Voskhod 2 in 1965. Kubasov flew as flight engineer aboard Soyuz 6 in 1969.
The significance of the ASTP in future years remains to be seen. But on the surface it would appear to represent a significant step forward in international space cooperation. In the words of Major General Vladimir Shatalov, a veteran of three space flights, the ASTP is “a small step on the big ladder towards mastering the universe.”
Foreign Technology Division, AFSC
William G. Holder (B.S.A.E., Purdue University) is a space systems analyst with the Foreign Technology Division, AFSC. He has worked with the Boeing Company on the Bomarc B and the Saturn V. As a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he served three years as an air defense guided missile instructor. Mr. Holder is the author of a number of technical and historical articles and of a book, Saturn V—The Moon Rocket (1969).
Phillip O. Davis (B.S.M.E., University of Kentucky) is a group leader with Space Systems Directorate, Foreign Technology Division, AFSC. He has served as systems analyst for foreign manned space systems and was product manager for the annual Defense Intelligence Agency studies on these systems. Mr. Davis was previously with Autonetics Division, North American Rockwell, working with Minuteman and A3J Vigilante inertial guidance systems.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.
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