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

A Study Task Team


As work progressed in Houston during the summer of 1971, two teams emerged. Most visible was the one under the direction of Glynn Lunney, comprised of the Working Groups that were organized to establish ground rules for working effectively with the Soviets. At the same time there existed a less formal organization, headed by René Berglund, charged with coordinating work within NASA and dealing with contractors after outside studies had been ordered. Membership in these two groups overlapped somewhat.

Shortly after the 21-25 June meeting with the Soviets, Berglund's team presented to Gilruth and his senior staff a paper outlining the basic hardware needed for a Soviet-American flight. Berglund proposed for purposes of discussion-planning toward a mid- to late-1974 launch; everyone agreed that "with all that has to go on to make it work, this was an extremely tight schedule." Chris Kraft directed Berglund and Lunney to generate by September a realistic schedule and a cost figure for one CSM-Salyut flight. The earlier talk of four Apollo earth orbital missions was dropped.



Sketch of two goals involved in developing a universal docking system

Sketch prepared for senior staff briefing at the Manned Spacecraft Center illustrates the two goals involved in developing a universal docking system for (1) current spacecraft (left) and (2) future spacecraft. 12 July 1971.


Caldwell Johnson's spacecraft designers were given an equally challenging assignment. Director Gilruth wanted the docking adapter design pushed ahead rapidly, with a working model prepared for the November meeting with the Soviets. Johnson quickly pointed out several tasks that would require further investigation. The first, called project engineering, was assigned to Clarke Covington, who had the overall responsibility for integrating the engineering done by the other designers and technical specialists. In addition, Covington was serving as a systems engineer to Lunney's Working Group 1 and to Berglund's Study Task Team. Covington became one of several engineers who found himself putting in 12- and 13-hour days.

Bill Creasy and his fellow mechanical engineers were working to a similar schedule on the design of a compatible docking system. Johnson, who believed that it would be most difficult to reach an agreement on the docking gear, wanted to proceed with a variation of that same ring and cone system he had illustrated for the Soviets the preceding October in Moscow.

Since Petrov had rejected the simple adaptation of Apollo and Soyuz as a "space stunt" and since the Soviet space expert had proposed developing a universal docking mechanism, Johnson suggested that MSC draw up a "design specifically adequate to requirements of a particular CSM/Salyut mission, the design being representative only of the fundamental form and function of docking gear satisfying the requirements for compatible docking system for future spacecraft." Creasy was asked to conduct a preliminary design study to determine the nature, weight, and characteristic dimensions of the functional components of an androgynous docking mechanism. This study was to be of sufficient depth to allow a demonstration system to be built that would permit further engineering and development. While the preliminary design was to be adapted to a CSM-Salyut mission, it should be adaptable to future spacecraft as well.71

[156] Responsibility for designing the airlock module was given to James C. Jones. Rejected earlier in favor of the simpler Apollo-Soyuz drogue-in-cone concept, this adapter had revived engineering interest, and preliminary designs were directed toward CSM-Salyut. These studies for the docking module (DM) were to be so detailed that the concepts could be engineered and developed by outside contractors. Jones was also assigned responsibility for the preliminary integration of the environmental control system into the DM and the first cut at designing a mounting for the airlock module inside the launch adapter.72

Building on these early design efforts, Berglund's team drew up a "Statement of Work," issued on 29 July 1971 to North American Rockwell, for a detailed study of all the elements required for an International Rendezvous and Docking Mission (IRDM). This four-month study was intended to expand upon the basic concepts and provide a fuller description of the hardware as it could be used in a rendezvous and docking mission and independent CSM earth survey. North American would consider which of the remaining CSM's (111, 115, 115A, or 119) would be best suited for modification and completion as the prime and backup spacecraft for a mission with the Soviets.73

In essence, the MSC Statement of Work and subsequent Document Change Requests told North American what NASA wanted; then the contractor was to carry out the engineering and development. For example, the agency documents proposed that the mission be 14 days long, with a joint docked phase of one to two days, after which Apollo would conduct earth survey experiments. The sequence of events during the mission was outlined:

  • Saturn IB stage boost
  • CSM separation, transposition and docking with extraction of the DM
  • CSM transport of DM to a Salyut-type vehicle
  • Rendezvous and docking of CSM-DM with Salyut-type vehicle (CSM active)
  • Docked orbital operations (solar inertial attitude)
  • Separation of CSM-DM from Salyut-type vehicle
  • CSM maneuver to earth resources survey orbit condition
  • Conduct earth resources survey activities
  • EVA retrieval of experiment data
  • CSM deorbit and entry74

With these guidelines, North American was to plot out the details of a joint flight and define all the hardware considerations involved in preparing a CSM and a DM for such a mission.

While the contractor personnel began their work, Gilruth created a formal Study Task Team at MSC to direct the IRDM study. René Berglund, appointed manager of this group, convened its first meeting on 4 August 1971 [157] to discuss the general status of the IRDM work and the management philosophy to be used during North American's effort. At this meeting, the schedule for the next four months was mapped out so that the proper pace of activities could be ensured.75 During August and September, work progressed on several fronts in preparation for the winter meeting with the Soviets.

71. "Informal Notes for Glynn Lunney, Subject: Results of the Briefing to MSC Management on Common Docking," draft, 13 July 1971; NASA, MSC, "CSM/Salyut Program Briefing," 12 July 1971; NASA, MSC, "E&D Weekly Activity Report," 3-9 July 1971; and Caldwell C. Johnson to Covington et al., memo, "CSM/Salyut Mission," 15 July 1971.

72. Johnson to Covington et al., memo, "CSM/Salyut Mission," 15 July 1971.

73. D. A. Nebrig to R. C. Lashbrook, "Contract NAS 9-150, Statement of Work for International Rendezvous and Docking Mission," 29 July 1971; and Berglund to distribution, memo, "International Rendezvous and Docking Missions Statement of Work," 28 July 1971. The "Statement of Work" was attached to both documents. The CCA#4162;500-300, dated 29 July 1971, was a change to contract NAS 9-150, 21 Dec. 1961.

74. NASA, MSC, "Statement of Work: International Rendezvous and Docking Mission," 28 July 1971, pp. 2-3.

75. Berglund to distribution, memo, "International Rendezvous and Docking Mission Study Team Staff Meeting of August 4, 1971," 4 Aug. 1971; and MSC Announcement 71-123, "Establishment of a Study Task Team," 23 Aug. 1971.