Spaceflight Now: Mir space station


March 23, 2001 -- Follow the reentry of the Russian space station Mir on this page with updates on the latest news.

0559 GMT (12:59 a.m. EST)

The era of space station Mir is over, ending a 2.2 billion mile odyssey of the orbiting complex that was visited by 104 astronauts over its 15-year voyage. Reports indicate the remnants of the station -- the 1,500 fragments expected to survive reentry -- should have splashed down into the South Pacific Ocean by this time.

Today's controlled reentry appears to have gone without any significant trouble as the Russians successfully deorbited the largest spacecraft in history. This is obviously a time of mixed emotions as the historic space station is now gone but the reentry went occurring to plan.

0556 GMT (12:56 a.m. EST)

Estimates put the debris of Mir to be at altitude of 10 miles.

0555 GMT (12:55 a.m. EST)

Reports continue of a massive fireball of the sky as Mir falls back to the planet after its 15-year flight.

0551 GMT (12:51 a.m. EST)

News reports from Fiji indicate that spectators have spotted the streaking destruction of Mir as several large pieces could be seen plummeting to Earth. The station appears to be on the proper course for impact into a remote area of the South Pacific.

0550 GMT (12:50 a.m. EST)

At this point the space station Mir should begin breaking apart as it nears about 45 miles in altitude. Experts say the delicate solar arrays and communications antennas of the station will rip away first, then the modules will disconnect and rupture.

0545 GMT (12:45 a.m. EST)

The altitude dipping below 50 miles. Mir weighs about 140 tons. It's school bus-sized modules are arranged in a T-shaped structure, 86 feet by 96 feet by 99 feet. The core module was launched on February 20, 1986.

0541 GMT (12:41 a.m. EST)

The station is now estimated below 60 miles in altitude as heat begins to build around Mir.

0534 GMT (12:34 a.m. EST)

Mir is currently at altitude of about 80 miles as it remains on the planned trajectory for reentry and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean within a 3,700-mile and 125-mile strip around a center geographically positioned at 44.2 degrees latitude and 150 degrees longitude.

0528 GMT (12:28 a.m. EST)

The final braking burn has been completed, officials report. Mir is now on its death plunge toward the atmosphere. The Russians expect the station to begin breaking apart in a matter of minutes.

0519 GMT (12:19 a.m. EST)

The final live television has been received at Russian Mission Control outside Moscow from the abandoned space station Mir as the deorbit burn continues.

0511 GMT (12:11 a.m. EST)

The main engine will burn until it's fuel supply is expended while the thrusters continue for a total duration of about 20 minutes.

0508 GMT (12:08 a.m. EST)

The Russian space station Mir is heading to destruction, ending a 15-year odyssey in low-Earth orbit. The final braking maneuver has begun to slow the 140-ton spacecraft for its reentry into Earth's atmosphere and impact into the remote South Pacific Ocean. This burn is using the attitude control thrusters and main engine of the Progress M1-5 cargo ship docked to Mir.

0500 GMT (12:00 a.m. EST)

All still reported well aboard Mir over the past two hours as it prepares for the deorbiting burn. Officials now say the firing should start at 0507:36 GMT (12:07:36 a.m. EST), slightly earlier than previously announced.

0300 GMT (10:00 p.m. EST Thurs.)

Flight controllers report tonight's efforts to deorbit the 15-year old Russian space station Mir is progressing by the book with no troubles. The station has completed two braking maneuvers thus far with one final engine firing upcoming about two hours from now to drop the 140-ton craft from orbit.

0232 GMT (9:32 p.m. EST Thurs.)

Confirmation now being received that the second of three maneuvers to guide the space station Mir to a safe reentry has been performed successfully.

The station has been placed into an elliptical orbit in preparation for the final braking maneuver expected to begin at 0509 GMT (12:09 a.m. EST).

0226 GMT (9:26 p.m. EST Thurs.)

There has not been any futher update on the status of this second braking burn.

Earlier, Nikolai Ivanov, deputy Mission Control chief of ballistics, told Reuters following the first burn that: "Everything is going on its schedule. The engines worked as designated. The parameters of orbit correspond to our estimates. The orbit has been formed so that its lowest point is positioned over the dumping area."

0201 GMT (9:01 p.m. EST Thurs.)

The second in the series of maneuvers to send the Russian space station Mir on a controlled but fiery trek to a watery grave in the South Pacific Ocean should now be underway. The attitude control thrusters of the Progress cargo ship will be used again in this firing that is scheduled from 0201:11 GMT (9:01:11 p.m. EST) to 0224:25 GMT (9:24:25 p.m. EST).

0108 GMT (8:08 p.m. EST Thurs.)

Russian space officials are saying the first braking burn was "flawless" as it began the final descent of Mir. The next firing is scheduled to begin at 0201 GMT (9:02 p.m. EST).

0054 GMT (7:54 p.m. EST Thurs.)

The first of three rocket firings to drop Mir from orbit should be completed at this point. However, it will take Russian flight controllers a bit of time to verify the burn went as planned and Mir is in the lowered orbit as expected.

0033 GMT (7:33 p.m. EST Thurs.)

Russian space officials report the first braking maneuver is underway aboard Mir. This near 22-minute firing of attitude control thrusters on the Progress M1-5 freighter docked to Mir will slow the station by about 9 meters per second (30 feet per second).

2345 GMT (6:45 p.m. EST)

The latest word from Russian mission control indicates the reentry strategy for space station Mir remains in place with no problems reported. The first deorbiting burn by the Progress craft is upcoming. The firing is scheduled to start at 0032:47 GMT (7:32:47 p.m. EST) and last until 0053:38 GMT (7:53:38 p.m. EST) with an impulse of 8.96 m/s.

Two later maneuvers are planned to send the station crashing into the South Pacific Ocean. There have been some conflicting times for splashdown, but the latest from Moscow is to expect the entry into the atmosphere at 0543 GMT (12:42 a.m. EST) and impact at 0559 GMT (12:59 a.m. EST) near 47 degrees South/140 degrees West.

1630 GMT (11:30 a.m. EST)

The space station Mir -- a relic of the once grand Soviet space program that later served as a stepping stone to today's world cooperation in orbit -- is making its final laps around Earth.

In a matter of hours, the 143-ton station will begin a series of braking maneuvers to drop the 15-year old complex out of orbit for a suicidal plunge into Earth's atmosphere.

A Progress cargo freighter docked to Mir will perform the engine firings so the deorbiting occurs in a controlled fashion, allowing the station's debris to land in a remote area of the South Pacific Ocean.

The deorbiting will begin with a 21-minute burn starting at 0033 GMT (7:33 p.m. EST) tonight, changing the station's velocity by 9.0 meters per second and decreasing the orbital altitude.

The next burn is planned at 0202 GMT (9:02 p.m.) and should last 23 minutes, further slowing the station by 9.6 meters per second and lowering the orbit.

A final 23-minute engine firing beginning at 0509 GMT (12:09 a.m. EST) should put Mir into a dive toward the South Pacific Ocean by slowing its velocity by 25.0 meters per second.

Impact is expected around 0630 GMT (1:30 a.m. EST).

We will update this page frequently as reliable information can be confirmed.

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