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Mir Status 11/20/2000

Russian Space Station Mir Retirement announced.
Mir Bounce

November 20, 2000

By Miles Mann WF1F,
MAREX-NA (Manned Amateur Radio Experiment, North American Division)

Russian Space Station Mir Retirement announced.

Last week several news agencies carried the story about the Russian
Space station Mir being retired next year.  When I saw the stories, my
first thought was not to believe the stories.  The news media and
tabloids have been predicting Mir retirement date incorrectly for 6
years in a row.  It's like the fables the "Boy who cried wolf" or
"Chicken Little, the sky is falling".  So I completely ignored the
stories and waited until I had the time to talk to the engineers at
Energia in Russia to get the real information.

It seems that the funding for the Mir program did not come through and
it appears that even if the funding did arrive, it may be too late.  The
Russian space station Mir will be retired next year.  Some of the
engineers at RSA Energia feel that the equipment on Mir can last another
5 full years.  And that with the proper funding Mir could stay operation
until after 2006 (20 years old).  However since the finding did not
arrive in time, the Mir support programs are being shut down and future
Mir related projects are in the process of being canceled.

How will it happen and when:
A remotely controlled Progress supply ship has already docked with the
Mir station.  The Progress ship will use its guidance system and engines
to slowly lower the orbit of the Mir space station over the next 4
months.  The Mir station is currently orbiting at an altitude of 201
miles.  The altitude will be lowered in a controlled manner to around
90-130 miles.  Then some time between February 20 and 28, the engines on
the Progress ship will fire up and send the station into the Pacific
Ocean.  A few small fragments of the station may survive re-entry and
splash harmlessly into the ocean.  There is virtually no chance that of
any of the pieces will reach land.
Mir will celebrate its 15 birthday on February 15, 2001.
Many of us will miss the old lady.  From an Amateur Radio point of view,
she was the most popular Amateur radio station on the air for several
years.  Thousands of Amateur Radio operations who knew nothing about
satellite operations were able to tune in and use the Amateur Radio
Packet Email system or chat with an Astronaut or Cosmonaut. And during
the last year, we were able to see their smiling faces via MAREX  SSTV.

73 and 88 Mir

Can we still work Mir?
All of the Amateur Radio equipment on Mir is currently disconnected,
however, have you tried to bounce your signal off of Mir?
It called Earth-Mir-Earth?

Many of you may have heard of Moon bounce, also called Earth-Moon-Earth.
Did you know you could do the same thing with the Russian Space Station
In the 1960's NASA launched a satellite project called Echo. 
 It was just a big inflatable balloon 100 feet in diameter floating in a
low orbit, Mir is bigger than Echo.  Echo was the first American passive
satellite ever launched and it was successful.  The word Passive means,
it had no electronics to relay radio signals. The radio signals just
bounced off the reflective material.  Terrestrial radio stations would
aim their antennas at the Satellite Echo and literally bound their
signals off Echo to communication.

The same theory can be used with the Russians space Station Mir.

In 1994 I actually heard some echoes of a distant amateur radio station
actually bouncing off the Space Station Mir.  It happened during a
pre-arranged Mir radio schedule with Cosmonaut  Aleksander Serebrov.  I
would routinely have a schedule with the Mir crew to make arrangements
for school schedules.  A fellow ham Joe W2KQ was also assisting with
making the school arrangements.  I live in the Boston Mass, Joe lives in
New Jersey, under normal conditions I can not hear Joe on the 2-meter
band.   The only time we can hear each other is during a band opening
and if we have our antennas pointed at each other.  At the time of the
contact we were both running similar stations, each equipped with a
12dBd gain antennas and 150 watts of raw power (total ERP 2400 watts). 
After I was done talking to Cosmonaut Aleksander, I signed clear knowing
that Joe would pick up the conversation.  Aleksander then began talking
to Joe W2KQ in New Jersey. After listening to Mir for a few more seconds
I began to hear Joe's unmistakable voice echoing off the Russian Space
Station Mir.  At first I assume we had a band opening on 2-meters.  Then
I looked at my computer to see where my antenna was pointing.  The
computer controlled antennas was aiming South East, out to sea at the
Mir Space Station.  New Jersey was on my side of my beam, not off the
front or back of the beam.  Then I looked closer at the computer to see
where Joe was pointing his beam.  Sure enough, Joe's beam would be
pointing North East out to sea, also towards the Mir Space Station.
There are a few possible other explanations, however since both of our
antennas were pointing out to sea and elevated up towards the Space
Station Mir, it seems a pretty good theory we were bouncing off Mir.  So
who will be the first to log a 2-way Mir bounce?

What do you need to Mir Bounce.
A big station.
Antenna 	12 dBd or more
Power Raw	150 +
Antenna preamp
Mode CW or SSB
So if you have a Big gun, give Earth Mir Earth a try.

Copyright 2000 Miles Mann, All Rights Reserved.  This document may be
freely distributed via the following means - Email (including
listservers), Usenet, and World-Wide-Web.  It may not be reproduced for
profit including, but not limited to, CD ROMs, books, and/or other
commercial outlets without prior written consent from the author. 
Images received from the MAREX-NA SSTV system on the Russian Space
Station Mir are considered public domain and may be freely distributed,
without prior permission.

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