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

Chapter 6

Forging a Partnership


[161] In planning for the third round of Soviet-American compatibility talks in the summer of 1971, Glynn Lunney wrote to Professor Bushuyev, expressing his condolences to the families and colleagues of the Soyuz 11 cosmonauts. "This sad accident has further strengthened our emphasis on the solution of the common docking problems." Turning to the work being done in Houston, he commented, "As no doubt you are finding, there are many questions which arise as we have time to reflect upon and plan the work for our meetings later this year." One of these questions concerned the diameter of the Salyut port. Bill Creasy and his design colleagues had planned to propose a docking mechanism for the Soviets to study, but they needed to know what size gear would fit beneath the Salyut launch shroud, which provided the space station with aerodynamic streamlining. Lunney enclosed in his August letter a sketch that reflected the Manned Spacecraft Center's (MSC's) understanding of the dimensional limitations that would govern the mounting of such a docking system on Salyut, and he asked Professor Bushuyev to verify the sizes involved, which he did on 9 September.1

During September, Lunney again sent correspondence to Moscow regarding a proposed agenda for their joint meeting; NASA would prefer a two-part approach. "As we agreed in June," he wrote, "we have given priority consideration to a test mission between the Apollo spacecraft and the Salyut-type station," but our two countries must also continue "work on the technical requirements and solutions for long-term capability." To meet both needs, the NASA agenda separated the topics to be discussed into two categories - long range compatibility issues and a near term test mission. Lunney hoped that this format would clarify the distinctions between the immediate and longer range goals of the negotiations. He also pointedly played down the possibility of a joint mission with Skylab, by saying that it was much too early to talk about using such an untested, complex scientific space station.2

Bushuyev replied in October, agreeing that it appeared possible to look at both long range questions and an Apollo/Salyut mission "in parallel."3 He [162] also sent lists prepared for each Working Group regarding documents that the Soviets believed could be put into final form at this meeting. A fourth list presented several general documents that they felt should be agreed upon ultimately. Finally, the Professor suggested the joint meetings be held from 29 November to 7 December in Moscow. Since this was well within the time for which NASA had targeted, Lunney accepted and advised the Soviets that the Americans would plan to arrive on the evening of Saturday, the 27th.4

1. NASA, MSC, "A Docking Mechanism for Apollo/Salyut-Type Spacecraft," 17 Nov. 1971; and Robert R. Gilruth to Arnold W. Frutkin, 29 July 1971, asking transmittal of letter, Glynn S. Lunney to Konstantin Davydovich Bushuyev, 3 Aug. 1971. Before this letter was sent, Frutkin asked for Chuck Mathews concurrence. This formality was subsequently dropped as Lunney's authority broadened and efforts were made to speed communication. See J. Leroy Roberts to Charles W. Mathews, note, 2 Aug. 1971, with Mathew's concurrence dated 3 Aug.

2. Gilruth to Frutkin, 16 Aug. 1971, asking transmittal of letter, Lunney to Bushuyev, undated, with the following enclosures: NASA, MSC, Bidford F. Cockrell, "Coordinate Systems Standards for International Rendezvous and Docking of Spacecraft," MSC Internal Note No. 71-FM-312 (MSC-04746), 9 Aug.1971; "Recommendations for a Communication Channel between the USA and USSR Mission Control Centers to Support International Manned Spacecraft Rendezvous and Docking" [n-d.]; NASA, MSC, "Technical Requirements for Compatible USA and USSR Docking Systems," 6 Aug. 1971; and NASA, MSC, "Several Concepts of Communications and Tracking Systems for US/USSR Compatibility Study," 13 Aug. 1971. See also Gilruth to Frutkin, 20 Sept. 1971, asking transmittal of letter, Lunney to Bushuyev [n.d.], with separate agendas for all three Working Groups attached. René Berglund had been concerned about the need to differentiate between the new and far term in June. See René A. Berglund to Gilruth, memo, "Notes on the June 21-25 Soviet Visit," 30 June 1971.

3. Bushuyev to Lunney, 8 Oct. 1971, with two enclosures: "Predlozheniya po znacheniyam parametrov sistem upravleniya, radionavedeniya i svazi, obespechivayushchikh sblizheniye i stykovku kosmicheskikh korabley i stantsiy SSR i SShA" [Proposed value of parameters for control, radio guidance, and communication system ensuring the rendezvous and docking of USSR and USA spacecraft and stations] and "Tekhnicheskiye trebovaniya k atmosfere obitayemykh otsekov, sposobam perekhoda, agregatam i sistemam, neobkhodimyye dlya obespecheniya perekhods ekipazhey posle stykovki kosmicheskikh korabley ili stantsiy SSR i SShA" [Specifications for crew compartment atmosphere, transfer methods, and units and systems needed to provide for the transfer of crews after USSR and USA spacecraft and space stations have docked].

4. Bushuyev to Lunney, 28 Oct. 1971; and Lunney to Bushuyev [n.d.].