2001 Speeches

Will Trafton

Vice President & Deputy General Manager

Expendable Launch Systems

"East-West Cooperation in Space Ventures"

International Astronautics Federation (IAF)

Paris, France

December 03, 2001

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure to be here with you today and an honor to be asked to speak before this conference on a subject that I feel strongly about -- cooperation between the eastern and western space-faring nations.

I believe that we are at a time when cooperation is more important than ever. The abilities of our national space programs to compete for the substantial budgets needed to fund the many ambitious projects that we could pursue have never been more challenged. The limited commercial market continues to provide pressure on the over supply of commercial space service providers and suppliers. Cooperation between nations and among commercial enterprises will be more important than ever to enable the economic viability of space. I believe that this conference's focus, specifically on the Russian and Ukrainian space programs, is both timely and appropriate.

The objectives of the symposium are very focused: (1) to examine the political, economic, and social context of Russian and Ukrainian space activities; (2) to review which players provide what capabilities: (3) to review their respective launch services capabilities; (4) to look at what's coming in the areas of space science, communications, navigation, and earth observation; and finally, (5) to look at the current joint ventures and cooperative efforts before considering potential new initiatives.

And while the next two days concentrate on the details, I'd like to use my limited time to underscore the overall importance and value of these cooperative efforts and joint ventures. I believe such relationships are important and valuable for the individual nations involved and, in addition, make sound business sense in the commercial market. This assumption is based on history as well as my personal experience.

In the space field, history doesn't go back all that far and most of you will probably think I should be able to remember it all from personal experience. While I'm old enough to do just that, I haven't been associated with the space field for its entire 44-year history. I have had the pleasure of talking with many of the true pioneers and these discussions have underscored my personal experiences and observations of the last 10 years.

Because of the former Soviet Union and the United States' parallel paths in space, it is inevitable that cooperation occur to create a larger benefit than that which would be created separately. In the early stages, we developed our initial rocket programs from the same source, the V-2. Yet, because of the Cold War, we competed to develop similar capabilities, from launch systems, satellites, manned missions into space, to manned existence into space.

Although competition served both nations well in creating magnificent accomplishments, the era of cooperation will build upon and extend this history to even greater heights. Through former Soviet Union and U.S. involvement, we have created the International Space Station (ISS), and have markedly changed the world of commercial satellite deployment. These, in my opinion, are only the tip of the iceberg.

One of the first cooperative space efforts between the U.S. and Russia was the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Here, in 1975, during the height of the Cold War, a Soviet and an American spacecraft rendezvoused, docked, and effectively became a single spacecraft. Cosmonauts and astronauts from two national manned space programs came together in space and shook hands.

While this may not have been the most challenging technical achievement, the political and social accomplishments should not be underestimated. When people have to work together, coordinate numerous activities, and train together, they build bonds of trust and friendship. These relationships almost always outlive the individual programs. Tom Stafford, a retired Air Force Lt. General, and Alexsei Leonov, a retired Soviet General, and Valeri Kubasov are still friends to this day.

During my time with NASA as the Associate Administrator for Manned Spaceflight, we were flying Shuttle missions to the Mir space station. We worked extensively with the Russians, developing docking adapters, mission profiles, and conducting joint space operations. This provided a wealth of experience and established numerous relationships that directly supported the cooperative development of the ISS. Among all of the combined efforts, this has been the most ambitious cooperative space effort between the United States and Russia to date.

The ISS has required extensive coordination between NASA and the Russian space agency. There have been a number of problems, mostly with costs and schedules, but the program has been successful. The successes have not all been confined to space. The experience we have mutually gained in working with each other has been as important as the technical successes themselves. The numbers of personal relationships that have been developed during the course of these activities are hard to quantify. But these relationships, with their understanding, trust, and friendships, are invaluable.

If I seem to keep coming back to personal relationships, there's a reason. In my experience, personal relationships are the key to dealing with our Russian and Ukrainian partners. I think they, much more that we in the west, make these personal relationships the basis of their day-to-day work structure. We tend to rely more on contracts, agreements, and documentation. While these are all important in working with our Russian and Ukrainian partners, nothing is as important as trust and respect between individuals.

Building this trust and respect between individuals takes time. Once established, building and extending this relationship into successful business ventures is now possible. However, we in the west also tend to move people around much more than our eastern counterparts, so these hard-won relationships are often soon interrupted. This is a constant source of frustration to our partners who seem to constantly have to rebuild new relationships only to see the people move on before stable working conditions can be achieved.

While I understand their frustrations, I believe that even these interrupted relationships have great value. As an example, we at Sea Launch have built some very sound relationships with our partners in Yuzhnoye and Yuzhmash in the Ukraine. Sometimes they tend to move people as well as we do. Last fall I met with the President of the Ukraine, who coincidentally in his previous job was the General Director of Yuzhmash. Good personal relationships, trust, respect, and friendship, once established, can bear fruit far beyond just our space programs.

So clearly, I'm an advocate for cooperation for several reasons, not the least of which are the personal relationships that I feel are good for our international relationships as well as our space programs. We and the former states of the Soviet Union, specifically Russia and the Ukraine, have moved from isolation and distrust to cooperation and trust. Our cooperative space programs have contributed to this progress and I believe will continue to do so in the future.

Moving from cooperation between national space programs to commercial activities, I submit that partnering on these makes equally good sense. Our Russian and Ukrainian partners have a tremendous amount of space experience, a robust space infrastructure and an impressive technical capability. Their achievements and firsts in space are well known. Many of their capabilities have only become appreciated within the last decade. Their Soyuz rocket in its early form, the A-1, launched the first artificial earth satellite, the Sputnik 1 in 1957. Since that historic launch, which inaugurated the space era, there have been almost 1600 launches of the Soyuz rocket. This is more than all the Proton, Zenit, Atlas, Titan, and Delta space launches combined. Our European friends have capitalized on this remarkable rocket with their Starsem joint venture.

The commercial marketplace has shown it cannot ignore the Russian and Ukrainian technical capabilities. The relationship initially built through Lockheed Khrunichev Energia International evolved into International Launch Services (ILS) in 1995 to enable marketing of two of the world's launch vehicles, the American-built Atlas and Russian-built Proton provided the entrance to further involvement hardware of the Atlas V. The Russian RD-180 engines will power the Lockheed Martin Atlas V for both U.S. government and commercial applications. Its bigger brother, the RD-171, powers the Ukrainian Zenit first stage. The RD-171 engine with 1.6 million pounds of thrust at sea level is the most powerful rocket engine built to date. Our Sea Launch joint venture uses the Zenit first and second stages with a Russian Block DM upper stage to service the commercial communications satellite market.

Everyone has recognized the value of partnering with the Russians and the Ukrainians to bring their strengths into the commercial market. It's only natural for this trend to continue. This makes good business sense for the western partners by reducing development costs and enhancing capabilities in highly competitive markets. This makes equally good sense for our eastern partners by bringing hard currency into their very capable space industry. These commercial joint ventures are good for both partners.

The Ukrainians provided statistics to their government last year estimating how many people were employed in supporting the Sea Launch venture -- 6,000 engineers and 8,000 technicians and support personnel. Russian support involves 36 companies and about 26,000 people. This is a significant resource supporting an exceptionally capable rocket system.

Sea Launch is unique in that, more than any other cooperative commercial program, it involves American, Russian, Ukrainian, and Norwegian personnel in the launch vehicle integration, operations, and launch of the Sea Launch Zenit 3SL. The Sea Launch Company actually reviews the Zenit and Block DM production and test data and then buys the hardware before shipment to the United States. Sea Launch also buys Russian and Ukrainian integration and operations support for launching the Sea Launch hardware. These people are an integral part of the Sea Launch operations team that processes, integrates, and tests the flight hardware at Home Port in Long Beach, Calif. They, along with the American launch team, accompany the platform to the equator where the combined launch team conducts the final countdown.

We have built the processes that allow this integrated, international team to operate efficiently while complying with the numerous Export Control and Technology Transfer restrictions required by all of the nations involved. While this is more complex and difficult than simply buying a foreign launch service, we feel that we benefit from the intimate relationships and daily contacts among our respective partners. We all have better insight into each other's operations, better understanding of each other's hardware, and a better ability to tailor our services to our individual customers' needs. These benefits are worth the additional government oversight and regulated interchanges required. And, yes, there are those personal relationships again. We have to work closely together each day for our concept to be successful. We get to know these people very well working with them day in and day out.

We have learned to understand their ways of doing business without trying to change them. They have learned how to adapt what they do to better fit within the ways we do business. We have learned to respect and trust each other in ways that allow us to grow together in providing a better product for the marketplace and better service to our customers.

This cooperation on the Sea Launch program has continued to enable the formation of Boeing Launch Services (BLS) Inc., in which I am President. The trust of the Sea Launch partners in the relationships built with the Boeing people working Sea Launch provided the ability to create the sales and marketing entity to sell Sea Launch and Delta Launch Services in a complementary manner. In fact, I am still the Chairman of the Sea Launch partnership, while in my current capacity. Additionally, the collaborative ability to sell Sea Launch and Delta systems has enabled the commercial customer additional services beyond that of the two individual entities, such as greater schedule assurance through mutual backup and dual integration. BLS, ILS and Starsem are all examples of how combining the previously parallel activities of the Former Soviet Union and the United States into joint activities improve the product for the world.

In summary, I believe strongly in the value of east-west space cooperation. I believe that it is good for our respective countries. I believe that it builds trust and confidence and ultimately life-long friendships. I believe that these relationships eventually extend far beyond just our space programs. I believe that the Russian and Ukrainian capabilities are too significant to be ignored by western commercial endeavors. I believe commercial cooperation and joint venture make good business sense for all the partners involved and that the relationships established in these commercial activities tend to reinforce those established among government agencies.

I also believe that commercial cooperation can provide a distinct competitive advantage in the highly competitive commercial markets. I believe that commercial cooperation can provide significant economic benefits to the Russian and Ukrainian space programs and ultimately to their economies in general. I believe space cooperation has proven itself to be beneficial in the past and will be even more important in the future. I believe that our national space programs' competition for scarce resources will become increasingly difficult and that cooperation may offer the best solution to constrained budgets.

The objectives of this symposium are both timely and highly relevant. The global space community faces a myriad of challenges, made all more complex by tight budgets and shifting markets. Despite troubled times brought about by terrorism and conflict, there also is opportunity to orchestrate new collaborative ties between space-faring nations.

There is no question that the world events are now shaping today's space agenda. Investors and international business owners are assessing several markets. Government and corporate officials must grapple with what commercial solutions may address government space needs. Looming large is sorting out the muddied readiness of the International Space Station as an outpost for commercial enterprises, the glut of commercial space boosters, and striking a balance between military and civilian interests in the context of the peaceful uses of outer space. Understanding the environments in which our Russian and Ukrainian partners have to operate is particularly important in resolving these issues. Understanding their strengths and where these strengths can be integrated most effectively in cooperative ventures is equally important. I encourage each of you to approach the discussions of the next few days in a positive and open way. There are mutually beneficial opportunities awaiting the entrepreneurs with the vision to find them. Respect their capabilities and experience and work to understand just what they can bring to bear on your problems and initiatives. With this as a foundation, the trust and friendships will develop and the successes and profits will follow. Good luck.