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

Life Support and Crew Transfer - Review


Group 5 had conducted a series of environmental control tests since the Mid-Term Review to determine the flight readiness of the Apollo docking module and Soyuz. Equally significant was the work done since October 1973 to ensure the non-flammability of American and Soviet equipment that was to be transferred from one spacecraft to another. This topic had not been addressed in any detail until the Mid-Term Review. Since the Soviets used an 80 percent nitrogen 20 percent oxygen atmosphere, spacecraft flammability was not as severe a worry as it was for the Americans in their nearly pure oxygen atmosphere spacecraft. Walt Guy, in looking back on this topic, commented:

We had seen movies in which they wore what appeared to be woollen clothes and fur hats, so we didn't feel that they had addressed the question of flammability. At one point, we considered putting all transferred equipment - such as space suits - into our fire proof bags. After EVA went away, our concern became one of not introducing materials into each other's spacecraft that could cause a fire. Our safety people were still concerned that their spacecraft might be on the lucky side instead of the safe side. Obviously, we flew a lot of missions before our Apollo disaster, which proved that we were more lucky that safe. There was a lot of concern about the basic design of the Soyuz from a safety point of view. Lunney got the Soviets to agree to [300] a certification document for the non-flammability of each piece of transferred equipment. When we eliminated the EVA and reduced much of the equipment to be transferred, the list became much shorter; we were able to consolidate all those documents into a single document.27

After considerable discussion, the Soviets agreed to use the American flammability test procedures to determine the safety of their equipment. One key point dealt with the cosmonauts' flight suits. Since the Americans could not let the Soviet crew enter Apollo wearing wool or cotton clothing, they volunteered to give the Soviets enough material to manufacture new suits. But Lavrov declined the offer, saying that the Soviets intended to develop a flameproof material of their own. After several experiments, Lavrov's team produced a cloth that Walt Guy noted was superior in its self-extinguishing characteristics to the material used by the Apollo crew. In a pure oxygen environment, the Soviet cloth, called Lola, would self-extinguish, whereas the American material tended to burn very slowly. During the development of their fabric, the Soviets had brought successive samples of the material to the U.S. for the Johnson Space Center (JSC) specialists to test. Lavrov was proud of the work that his Group 5 people had done, and he had used the samples to demonstrate their progress to Guy and his colleagues.

Once they got involved in the fire safety topic, the Soviets subjected nearly all the items they planned to transfer to rigorous testing. On the American side, the NASA team used four methods to determine the flame-proof nature of their materials. In addition to testing, they used analysis, similarity, and waiver. Seventeen items of American equipment to be transferred to Soyuz were certified by analysis to be safe by virtue of the materials from which they had been fabricated, for example, sunglasses, wrist watches, writing instruments, sliderules, and the like. Six other pieces of equipment, such as speaker boxes, had been approved for flight by determining that they were similar to hardware previously tested and found safe. Only four articles were certified using waivers. Walt Guy could tell the FRR Board that Working Group 5 had no open items. All equipment to be transferred had been cleared for fire safety.28

Summarizing the Working Group reports, the Technical Directors indicated that all project milestones had been completed as scheduled. The two teams had finished their detailed review of joint flight safety issues and had prepared safety assessment reports to clarify the safety of selected design areas. Lunney and Bushuyev listed areas in which work remained to be completed:

JUNE MCC [Mission Control Center] SIMULATION






George Low recorded in his notes on the FRR that "there were no serious open issues, and it was quite clear that this review was considered to be a formality by the . . . Soviet side."30 R. H. Dietz noted that during the morning session of the FRR Low was the only person to extensively question the Directors and chairmen. Since the Deputy Administrator himself remarked about this after the lunch break, Petrov asked a few questions and Kotelnikov asked one when the meeting resumed. Low speculated that prior to the FRR the Soviets had satisfied themselves internally as to the readiness of the two sides for the mission. For his own part, Low felt that all his questions had been "well answered by the working group co-chairmen from both sides." Still, he was a little uneasy about the possibility of clear cut decisionmaking in the event of an emergency. In his trip report, he noted:

My remaining concern after this FRR has to do with command and authority of command, particularly in contingency situations. At no time is there a single commander in space nor is there a single flight director on the ground who is in charge. The project had tried to accommodate this situation by trying to anticipate all possible contingencies. I asked what would happen in the event of an unanticipated contingency or in case there is a difference in interpretation of whether or not a contingency exists. Although these questions were answered rather forcefully, I am still not convinced that this is not a potential problem area.31

At the end of the review, Low and Kotelnikov signed a protocol indicating that "the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project is proceeding in accordance with the agreed schedule and ready to proceed toward the launching, planned for July 15, 1975."32

27. Interview, Walter W. Guy and James R. Jaax-Ezell, 19 Jan. 1976.

28. Ibid.; "Apollo Soyuz Test Project Flight Readiness Review, May 1975," 25 May 1975, pp. WG-5-19 to WG-5-25; and I. V. Lavrov and Yu. S. Dolgopolov, "V poiskak obshcheiy atmosferi" [In search of a common atmosphere], in Soyuz i Apollon, pp. 166-179.

29. "Apollo Soyuz Test Project Flight Readiness Review, May 1975," 25 May 1975, p. WG-5-1.

30. Low, "Notes from Visit to Soviet Union, May 17-23, 1975," 5 June 1975.

31. Ibid.; and interview, Dietz-Ezell, 6 June 1975.

32. "Summary of the Joint Review of the Flight Readiness of the Apollo-Soyuz Project," 22 May 1975; "Space Officials Give Approval to Link-up of Apollo and Soyuz," New York Times, 23 May 1975; "All Systems Go," Washington Post, 23 May 1975; and "Apollo-Soyuz Flight is Okayed," Baltimore Sun, 23 May 1975.