U.S. provides data to Russians for Mir splashdown
U.S. AIR FORCE NEWS RELEASE
Posted: March 17, 2001
Officials from U.S. Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., are now providing the tracking information through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to Russia's aviation and space agency -- RosAviaKosmos -- in Moscow, said USSPACECOM spokesman Maj. Perry Nouis.
"We have an observer role limited to providing data to the Russians," Nouis said. "This is actually routine for us. We've been tracking Mir since it was launched in 1986."
Mir is one of 8,300 orbiting objects USSPACECOM tracks daily to provide space situational awareness and warning against possible incoming ballistic missiles, he said.
The Russians have said Mir's controlled re-entry is strictly their responsibility, Nouis said. Unusual to the operation, though, "is the amount of data and the frequency of updates USSPACECOM is providing the Russians -- several times a day."
As Mir gets closer to splashdown -- estimated in the South Pacific between New Zealand and South America -- the United States plans to provide hourly updates, he said.
"We're just one source of information for them," Nouis said "The European Space Agency is also providing Mir tracking information to the Russians."
The former Soviet Union launched Mir's main module into orbit Feb. 20, 1986, Nouis said. After gathering scientific data for more than a decade, the 140-ton space station -- with several modules each the size of a school bus -- has reached the end of its useful life, he said.
For years, Nouis said, NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts have worked together on various projects aboard Mir.
Controlled re-entries of old spacecraft are not anything new for the Russians. They have "directed successful splashdowns of many other units," Nouis said.
The U.S. government has agreed, within its capabilities, to provide Russia with Mir tracking and trajectory data, as well as scientific data on atmospheric conditions, including solar activity, during the de-orbit period, according to a March 2 U.S. State Department news release.
USSPACECOM uses its Space Surveillance Network's ground-based radar sensors and telescopes at 19 locations around the world to track the Mir and other objects, Nouis said. The Russians will incorporate U.S.- and European-supplied Mir data with their own.
More than 26,000 items have been shot into Earth's orbit since the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, Nouis said. More than 17,000 have re-entered the atmosphere since then, he said, with most splashing down in the oceans or disintegrating from friction. Mir is so large, he said, that scientists around the world estimate about 25 tons of it could survive the return to earth.
"There is lots of uninhabited ocean between New Zealand and South America in the Mir target area," Nouis said. Oceans cover 75 percent of Earth's surface.
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