Center for Environmental Policy and Administration

The Space Station and Multi-National Collaboration: A Merger of Domestic and Foreign Policy

Author:W. Henry Lambright with Carla Pizzarella
Date: 2006

The space station is today the preeminent example of a large-scale, long-term collaborative technological project. With the US as "managing partner," the space station involves 16 nations. There has been in reality two station projects (the first, called Freedom, and the second, the International Space Station). This paper examines the dynamics of the station over its existence. It particularly looks at the interplay of technical, organizational, and political factors in sustaining a collaborative project over decades. The role of the "collaboration champion" is highlighted in keeping both the project and partnership undergirding it going under a range of conditions. The mobilization of political will is crucial to the success of huge projects of this kind. It requires the administrative leader to enlist elected officials in a coalition of support that can stretch across nations. Building such support means linking domestic and foreign policy rationales. The space station experience presents issues that are likely to arise in multi-national collaborative projects to come. It draws attention to what most of the literature on project management does not, the importance of political will in initiating and sustaining largescale, long-term endeavors. We present a model of multi-national project management based on our analysis of the space station case.


W Henry Lambright
Center for Environmental Policy and Administration
The Maxwell School, Syracuse University
Revised 12/01/2010 08:54:18