SP-4209 The Partnership: A History of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project

Chapter 7

Creating a Test Project


[195] The 1972 Nixon-Kosygin accord on space was the watershed in bilateral discussions between NASA and the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Both the Low-Keldysh agreement on space science and applications and the test mission now had the official imprimatur of the two respective governments. Prior to the Summit, work on the mission had been managed by NASA's advanced planners, but now that the decision had been made to fly, the mission planners, the flight operations staff, and the engineering and development personnel - a large and to a great extent new team of individuals - took the prime roles.

On 13 June 1972, Dale Myers sent a memorandum to the Center Directors at Cape Kennedy, Huntsville, and Houston, outlining the organizational policy decisions that had been made in preparation for the July plenary meeting with the Soviets. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project* was scheduled for mid-1975. With a Saturn IB, the Americans would launch command and service module (CSM) 111, reserving CSM 119 as the backup vehicle, if it were not flown during Skylab.1 Myers advised the centers that effective 11 June the management of the joint project had been transferred from the Office of Advanced Missions to the Apollo Program Office. Philip Culbertson and his staff were directed to assist Rocco A. Petrone and the Apollo team. In Houston, work on modifying the CSM would be handled by the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, under the direction of Owen G. Morris. Glynn Lunney, who had been assigned as Special Assistant to Morris the preceding March, was given primary responsibility for overseeing ASTP. Preparation of the Saturn IB launch vehicle would be carried out by the Saturn Program Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), and all launch related activities would be the responsibility of Kennedy Space Center (KSC).2

During May, René Berglund had suggested to Chris Kraft that Glynn Lunney be given the responsibility for managing the ASTP contract with [196] North American Rockwell. Berglund thought that the task of negotiating with the Soviets and the spacecraft contractor should be in the hands of a single individual and organization.3 Lunney seemed to be the logical choice on the American side for directing the development of the mission and the spacecraft hardware, as well as managing the U.S. negotiations with the Soviets. At age 36, Lunney had worked with first NACA and then NASA for 17 years, coming to Houston in 1962. At MSC, Lunney had been a flight director for the Gemini IX through Gemini XII missions and filled a similar role in ten of the Apollo flights, being the lead flight director for the unmanned AS-201 flight, Apollo 4, which was the first launch of the Saturn V, and the manned voyages of Apollo 7 and 10. As Chief of the Flight Directors Office, Lunney gained national recognition as the leader of the team that worked out the return trip plans for the Apollo 13 crew following the inflight explosion that incapacitated the electrical and oxygen systems of their service module. His performance during those trying days and during the early negotiations with the Soviets had indicated to the Manned Spacecraft Center's (MSC's) Director that Lunney was the individual to manage ASTP for NASA.4

Glynn Lunney and his colleagues worked hard to structure a basic organizational plan for the next joint meeting. They hoped that the working procedure developed in Houston at that summer session would serve as a model for the many meetings that would follow. Included in Lunney's plans was a proposal for a more detailed schedule of activities for the next three years and a scheme for documenting in English and Russian all technical agreements. The American plan for documentation suggested two series of reports that would be approved jointly and signed by the appropriate Working Group members and the Project Technical Directors. ASTP Documents would codify the basic understandings for conducting the mission, while Interacting Equipment Documents would record specific technical data required to ensure compatibility, lay out test plans, and present hardware specifications and drawings in standardized format.

One presentation, the "Proposed Operating Plan for US/USSR Meeting on the Apollo/Soyuz Test Project, Houston, Texas, July, 1972," was typical of the work done in Houston. Besides this document, which outlined the scope of each working session, tentative agendas and milestones for the various discussions were also presented.5 Other pre-meeting documents considered such logistical matters as transportation between the Soviets' motel and the meeting sites, plans for refreshments and meals, public affairs arrangements for photographs of the groups at work, as well as assignments for interpreters, translators, and Russian language typists. Similar attention was given to preparing after-work activities for their Soviet guests.6

[197] Efforts put into arranging the summer meeting were indicative of the NASA way of working. As the frequency of the joint negotiations increased and as the size of the NASA team expanded, so did the amount of paperwork and the number of briefings and reviews. The pyramid, which reached its apex in Lunney's office, expanded downward at MSC to include engineers and specialists in nearly every division. Fifty-eight key individuals were invited to a 2-hour ASTP briefing on 13 June. Starting with Director Chris Kraft, his deputy Sigurd Sjoberg, and their technical assistant George Abbey, the list of invitees included nearly all those directorate and division chiefs whose organizations would participate in or support the joint mission. Donald K. Slayton, Director of Flight Crew Operations, and his deputy Tom Stafford, attended the briefing, as did Alan Shepard, Chief of the Astronaut Office. Also present were the chiefs of the Flight Crew Integration, Crew Training Simulation, and Crew Procedures Divisions. Flight surgeons and members of the medical research team were on hand. From the Engineering and Development Directorate came Max Faget, accompanied by his division chiefs. The Flight Operations Directorate was represented by flight controllers, computer analysts, landing and recovery specialists, mission planners, and the flight support team. In addition to these individuals, Apollo Program Office, Skylab Program Office, and Science and Applications Directorate representatives were there.7

This June briefing was a method of getting the word out; each division chief would in turn inform his subordinates of the tasks that lay ahead. As those tasks were apportioned, the number of memoranda and reports would increase dramatically as the various teams kept their colleagues informed of their progress. Distribution lists were compiled and periodically revised, and reams of paper were fed into photocopying machines. All the paper that was circulated had a purpose - to get the job done and see that all the work expended was as efficient as possible among such a large group of people. MSC was now doing what it had been established to do - plan, develop, and fly a manned mission in space. This briefing was just one step in ensuring "a more widespread understanding of [the] project," which Glynn Lunney believed to be "very important to [the] timely, successful execution" of ASTP.8

While preparations for the joint meeting progressed, the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office completed contractual arrangements with North American Rockwell.9 On 30 June, the Procurement Office mailed a letter contract** to North American containing a statement of work. [198] Basic tasks included the necessary modifications to CSM 111, essentially the same type of spacecraft flown on Apollo 12, 13, and 14, so that it would meet the requirements of ASTP. North American also agreed under this contract to develop and fabricate the docking module (DM), docking system, and the support structure for the DM in the spacecraft lunar module adapter. In conjunction with the engineering, fabrication, and assembly, the prime contractor was further assigned major portions of the ground testing for the CSM, DM, and docking mechanism and a host of other activities that were necessary to prepare the spacecraft and its systems for the flight and to check it out after the mission. William B. Bergen, President of the Aerospace Group, accepted the contract on behalf of North American Rockwell on 6 July, the day the Soviets arrived.10

* Although used unofficially after the May Summit, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project did not become the official designation for the joint Soviet-American flight until 30 June 1972.

** This letter contract was a ninety-day commitment on the part of NASA, issued to start the described engineering and manufacturing. A negotiated and definitive contract was issued on 6 Oct. 1972. A fuller account of the contracting activities is presented in source note No. 10.

1. Dale D. Myers to John P. Donnelly , memo, "Designation for Joint US/USSR Mission," 5 June 1972; and Donnelly to Myers, memo, "Project Designation," 30 June 1972.

2. Myers to Kurt H. Debus, Eberhard F. M. Rees, and Christopher C. Kraft, memo, "Apollo Soyuz Test Project," 13 June 1972; Philip E. Culbertson to Rocco A. Petrone, memo, "Transfer of Apollo Soyuz Project Responsibility," 9 June 1972; and MSC Announcement 72-31, "Key Personnel Assignment," 2 Mar. 1972.

3. Interview, Leonard S. Nicholson-Edward C. Ezell, 16 July 1974. Nicholson had discussed the issue of two-versus-one managers with Berglund prior to the latter's discussion with Kraft.

4. NASA News Release, MSC, 68-28, 3 Apr. 1968; Glynn S. Lunney, "Discussion of Several Problem Areas during the Apollo 12 Operation," paper presented to AIAA 7th Annual Meeting and Technical Display, Houston, Tex., 19-22 Oct. 1970 (A70-1260); and U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, Apollo 13 Mission; Hearings, 24 Apr. 1970, 91st Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington, 1970).

5. [NASA, MSC], "Proposed Operating Plan for US/USSR Meeting on the Apollo/Soyuz Test Project," July 1972.

6. Caldwell C. Johnson, "Working Group Meetings Nominal Procedures," 26 June 1972; Johnson, "Principal Events, July 5 thru July_," 26 June 1972; Johnson, "Working Group Procedures," 26 June 1972; Johnson, "Status Review," 28 June 1972; "Proposed Agenda for Joint Meeting of U.S./U.S.S.R. Working Groups for Compatible Means of Rendezvous and Docking" [n.d.]; "Outline of Discussion with Dr. Kraft (6/14/72) on Preparations for July Meeting with the USSR" [n.d.]; Glynn S. Lunney to Eziaslav Harrin, Tamara Holmes, Dmitri Arensburger, and Dmitry Zarechnak, memo, "Interpreter's Assignments and Instruction," 5 July 1972; John W. King to Lunney, memo, "Apollo-Soyuz Test Project Meeting," 20 June 1972; and Lunney to distribution, memo, "Briefing on Apollo/Soyuz Test," 6 June 1972.

7. Lunney to distribution, memo, "Briefing on Apollo/Soyuz Test," 6 June 1972, with attached list of invitees.

8. Ibid.

9. Lunney and Bushuyev had their usual correspondence exchange before the July meeting; Konstantin Davydovich Bushuyev to Lunney, 7 June 1972; TWX, Lunney to Bushuyev, 15 June 1972; and TWX, Bushuyev to Lunney, 22 June 1972.

10. NASA decided to rely upon North American Rockwell to modify the CSM and build the related equipment needed for ASTP. The initial IRDM study had been conducted under a contract change authorization to the original contract, issued 21 Dec. 1961. The work contemplated for the ASTP mission required a new contract, and drafting of a new Statement of Work (SOW) had started in early 1972. A preliminary version of that document, "Statement of Work for CSM/Advanced Mission Docking System," 28 Mar. 1972, was distributed throughout OMSF. See Culbertson to distribution, memo, "Preliminary Statement of Work for CSM/ Advanced Missions Docking System," 12 Apr. 1972. ASPO had established an evaluation team to work with the proposed contractor in evaluating the contract proposal; see James A. McDivitt to distribution, memo, "Designation of Evaluation Team for ASTM (Apollo/Salyut Test Mission) Contract Proposal," 11 Apr. 1972. Meanwhile, Terrence Heil had prepared a procurement plan, "Development of Command and Service Module/Advanced Missions Docking Systems (CSM/AMDS)," on 2 Mar., which among other things contained a justification for a noncompetitive procurement. Culbertson described the reasons for selecting NAR in interview, Culbertson-Ezell, 5 May 1975. This procurement plan was approved by Kraft on 29 Mar. and forwarded to Headquarters. Following the May summit, the SOW was changed where necessary to reflect the shift from Salyut to Soyuz, and a letter contract was issued on 30 June. See letter contract, Heil to North American Rockwell Corp., Space Division, Contract NAS9-13100, 30 June 1972. This contract was accepted by NAR on 6 July and scheduled to run for 90 days; a definitive contract was to be negotiated by 29 Sept. Because there was a short delay and that definitive contract was not issued until 6 Oct., Kraft sought a 30-day extension on 22 Sept. See TWX, Kraft to Dale D. Myers, 22 Sept. 1972; and TWX, Myers to Kraft, 28 Sept. 1972. The definitive contract, issued on 6 Oct., was also numbered NAS9-13100.