375. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Tyler) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Cooperation with Europe in the Development and Production of Space Launch Vehicles

The Problem:

The recent establishment of the ten-nation European Space Research Organization (ESRO) and the seven-nation European Launcher Development Organization (ELDO)2 reflects European aspirations in the field of outer space and raises questions of long-range United States policy toward a potentially vigorous and sustained European effort in space science and technology. Current US policy foresees, and NASA has already offered, cooperation with ESRO in [Page 842] space research as well as in launching its satellite experiments. There are many indications, however, that the Europeans will not be content, for economic and political reasons as well as for considerations of prestige, to continue to be dependent upon US launch vehicles. We have been told specifically that ESRO planning looks to the launching of European-developed space satellites by European-built launch vehicles as soon as technically possible. ELDO, with its mandate to develop a European space launch vehicle, is the most obvious expression of this determination. We believe, therefore, that the United States must look beyond cooperation with ESRO to the more complicated question of our cooperation with ELDO in the development of European launch vehicle technology.


The formation of ESRO and particularly of ELDO (despite US offers to supply launch vehicles for the scientific payloads of individual European countries) reflects the force of European determination to mount an active space program and to develop an indigenous capability not dependent upon US technology and US launch vehicles. In addition to considerations of prestige and pride, there is widespread view among European industrial and government leaders that space technology is a frontier of modern industry and of applied science which cannot be left unexploited, if the dynamics of European industry and science are to be maintained in the future. Visits to the United States by representatives of European industry and reports from representatives of American industry abroad point to an impressive level of enthusiasm, activity, and technical progress. It is clear that the Europeans intend to forge ahead in this new technology.

The military implications of a growing European space capability are inescapable, given the fact that the technology of launch vehicles for placing satellites in orbit can be applied in varying degrees to the development of missiles. The extent to which this application will actually occur will depend in part on the general direction in which European space technology develops. It is during the present stage of initial formulation of the European effort that the United States has the best opportunity to influence the direction of that effort, not only toward projects less directly related to military applications, but also toward an integrated, multinational program which would reinforce our broad policy objectives in Europe in other fields. If we exhibit now a willingness to cooperate, it may also be possible to steer the European Community toward a capability in space technology which would complement our own (i.e., one which would avoid duplication of our efforts and would encourage the most effective use of limited Western scientific and industrial resources).

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If, however, we stand aloof from the development of European space technology, the Europeans will clearly go it alone. Their capability for doing so is unquestioned. There is considerable evidence that they already possess a large body of knowledge gained from our technical literature, from visits to and from American industry and space laboratories, from exchange of information between American and European industrial representatives, from US military contracts, from the Blue Streak technology, and from their own growing efforts. (A summary of European programs in this field is attached at Tab B.)3

Given such an informational base and the enthusiasm displayed in industrial, scientific and engineering circles, there is no doubt that the Europeans will develop an independent space technology. At the same time, despite the fact that the Europeans realize that they must to some extent enter this new field of technology from the ground up, they hope that they may build upon experience already extant in the United States so as to avoid useless duplication and to make it possible for them to advance the over-all Western capability at an early stage. Cooperation to this end in the foundation of an independent European Community capability in space technology would be consistent with our broader goals in Europe. It would parallel the similar developments which we are encouraging in the field of nuclear energy.

The United States has welcomed the formation of ESRO and has indicated its willingness to cooperate with the Organization in the space sciences as well as to provide launch assistance for the Organization’s experiments. We have not been enthusiastic about the separate establishment of ELDO since its initial program calls for the development of a space launch vehicle which will largely duplicate existing US vehicles. We have agreed, however, to assist ELDO indirectly in one respect, i.e., we have agreed that the British may pass on to the other members of the Organization certain data (other than information on guidance and re-entry) which we had previously provided to the British and which they have used in the development of the Blue Streak missile (Blue Streak was developed initially by the British as a prototype intermediate-range ballistic missile, but is now to be converted into the first stage of the proposed three-stage ELDO space launch vehicle.)

US policy limits cooperation in space launch technology to that which would not significantly enhance any national ballistic missile delivery capability. As a practical matter, however, no specific guidelines have been agreed as to what areas of cooperation would be permissible; nor has the question whether some cooperation of this sort would be desirable been considered carefully in the broader context of [Page 844] over-all policy toward the European Community. Such guidance is being sought by NASA and by representatives of the American aero-space industry. In the absence of specific guidelines reflecting an over-all policy, we have had to deal with requests for cooperation or assist-ance in this field on an ad hoc basis, applying as the over-riding criterion for decision in each case the lowest common denominator (i.e., the question whether such a release or license approval would appear to assist in any way the development of a national missile delivery capability) without regard to other desiderata or policy considerations. Reliance on this procedure is not only inadequate for NASA and our own industry, but precludes any advantageous initiative on our part and forces us to stand aside from these European developments. It creates the impression that we are unable to cooperate or that our cooperation is grudging at best.

There is attached at Tab A for your consideration a suggested draft United States Position on Cooperation with Europe in the Development and Production of Space Launch Vehicles.4 It reaffirms our own national interest in such cooperation, sets forth criteria for judging the general acceptability of any proposed area of cooperation, and charges the Department in conjunction with NASA and the Department of Defense to identify specific projects involving space launch technology which would contribute to Atlantic Community aims and would not at the same time contribute significantly to the development of national military missile capabilities.

  1. Source: National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, SCI Central Files: Lot 65 D 473. Official Use Only. Drafted by D.R. Morris and R.F. Packard (S/SA).
  2. ESRO now includes the UK, France, West Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria. It is expected that Norway and Denmark will join within a year or two. ELDO includes the UK, France, West Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Australia. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not printed. An excerpt from the October 3 Staff Record from the Executive Secretariat indicates that the Department approved the draft position paper on October 1. The Assistant Secretary for European Affairs was designated to represent the Department in discussions with NASA, the Defense Department, and the President’s Science Adviser. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, SCI Central Files: Lot 65 D 473)