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Mir End In Sight



Mir's Death Date Set -- March 6

By Yuri Karash
Moscow Contributing Correspondent

Two Russian space agencies have agreed on March 6 as the official day for the 
deorbiting of the Mir space station -- its date with death.

According to the plan made by the Russian Aviation and Space Agency 
(Rosaviacosmos) and RKK Energia (Mir's operator), a Progress M1-5 cargo ship 
with increased fuel capacity will be launched to Mir on January 18, at 1:56 
a.m. Eastern Standard Time (06:56 GMT; 9:56 a.m. Moscow time). The next day, 
a Progress M-43 cargo ship already at the station will be undocked from the 
outpost for a deorbit set for January 23.

Meanwhile, the Progress M1-5 will take four days to complete its journey to 
Mir -- twice as long as a conventional cargo flight to the outpost. The 
longer trip is designed to conserve the cargo ship's fuel for the robotic 
deorbiting procedure, which will require a large amount of propellant.

A four-day "chase" of Mir by a cargo ship was tested during a Progress M-43 
flight to Mir in October 2000.

Instead of using its rather fuel-thirsty main engine, the Progress M1-5 will 
rely on its smaller engines for approach and orientation. The ship is set to 
dock to Mir’s Kvant module on January 22, at 3:00 a.m. EST (08:00 GMT; 11:00 
a.m. Moscow time). If there are any problems docking, Russia will send up an 
emergency crew of cosmonauts to complete the procedure.

Mir's gyrodines, used to control the station's attitude, will be turned off 
on Feb. 10. 

On March 4 and 5, the Progress will fire three pulses designed to brake the 
station's orbital velocity. The first two pulses will decrease Mir’s speed by 
23 feet (7 meters) per second each, while the third one will decrease the 
station’s speed by 46 feet (14 meters) per second.

On March 6, the Progress will generate the final "killing pulse" which should 
decrease Mir’s speed by 56.8 feet (17.3 meters) per second, slowing it enough 
to drop out of orbit and plunge into the Pacific Ocean later that day. 

The deliberate ditching of the Russian outpost will produce a sizeable shower 
of hardware that will reach Earth's surface.

Over the years, Mir has become a fixture in orbit. The central core of the 
Russian station was hurled into space on February 20, 1986. 

But now, just a little more than 15 years later, it will be lights out for 
the complex of large docked modules, sets of solar panels, antennas and 
various pieces of attached equipment. 

Related news: boosts to cooperation

Two recent developments in Russian law will give a boost to U.S.-Russian 
cooperation in space.

The first piece of legislation confirmed the government's intention to 
proceed with its cooperation with Canada, the European Space Agency, Japan 
and the United States in the International Space Station program.

The second piece of legislation involves technology transfers between Russia, 
Kazakhstan and the United States and was aimed at enhancing exchanges between 
the owners of Russian and Western satellites launched by Russian rockets. 

On December 29, these ratified documents became federal laws after being 
signed by Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

 

 

 
 
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