366. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy1


  • Space Launcher Assistance to Other Countries

This Department, in close cooperation with Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has formulated a proposed approach to answering queries from the Europeans about the degree to which we will assist them in the space launcher field. The [Page 824] urgency of replying to such queries is dictated by British efforts to persuade European countries to participate in the development of a space launcher using the British Blue Streak as the first stage, a French rocket as second stage, and possibly a German rocket as third stage.

We believe Blue Streak would be an unwise project for the Europeans because it would require large investments of money, time, and effort and would be obsolescent (although usable) by the time of its operational readiness. Moreover, its development might facilitate the acquisition by the Europeans of independent capabilities to develop and produce ballistic missiles.

Apart from the question of a French capability, the chance of an independent German nuclear capability could be increased since missiles are an essential and expensive part of such a capability. We believe that German entry into the nuclear weapons field would have profoundly divisive effects in NATO in addition to the other disadvantages of further national nuclear weapons capabilities: increased risk of war by accident or miscalculation, greater likelihood that any conventional clash would escalate quickly into nuclear war, lessened ability to have a controlled nuclear response, and heightened obstacles to arms control.

We would therefore propose to offer for sale certain United States space launchers (Scout and Thor), in order to offer other countries an alternative to the Blue Streak proposal as well as to assist in legitimate space science activities. We would carry out any sales in a manner which would minimize any contribution to the development of independent ballistic missiles capabilities.

I believe this approach would be consistent with your June 5 conversation with Prime Minister Macmillan. The record of that conversation indicates that it might be possible to give the French some military information, particularly about aircraft, and that this might be done ostensibly by the United Kingdom possibly in connection with a “European Space Project.” We assume that this conversation should not be interpreted as contemplating any general relaxation of our policy against facilitating the acquisition of independent nuclear weapons delivery capabilities, including ballistic missiles, by other countries, or as representing an endorsement of the Blue Streak proposal.

If our interpretation above is in accord with your views, I recommend that you authorize me to proceed with an appropriate instruction to the United States Embassies in the countries concerned setting forth our approach to the sale of space launchers.

Dean Rusk
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Departments and Agencies Series, Space Activities, General, 7/61–12/61, Box 307. Top Secret. According to a July 24 attached memorandum from Bromley Smith to Executive Secretary Lucius D. Battle, the President gave his approval, through Bundy, to the recommendation in the last paragraph.