Russian space officials lay out plans for Mir's burial
BY SPACEFLIGHT NOW
Posted: November 18, 2000
RKK Energia, which operates the station for the Russian space agency, hopes both the prime and the backup crew will remain on Earth, but officials said Friday there are two likely scenarios that would mandate an assisted suicide housecall to Mir. They are:
The failure of the computerized attitude control system onboard Mir is considered the most likely situation that would require sending a final crew to the Mir station. Thirty computers onboard Mir will be needed to accurately position the 13-ton outpost during the final re-entry maneuvering burns. The computers control complex electrically powered wheels, called gyrodynes, that are used for high-accuracy pointing of the station in space.
The station currently is remotely controlled by flight directors at the misison control center in Korolev, who radio commands for Mir's small thrusters to fire and keep the outpost positioned properly. The system, however, is not accurate enough to use to deorbit Mir.
Mir's computerized attitude control system is to be tested in mid-January, RKK Energia officials told Spaceflight Now. If problems surface, RKK Energia will switch gears and proceed with plans to send the prime burial crew, commander Salizhan Sharipov and flight engineer Pavel Vinogradov, to Mir. The Soyuz could be ready to fly within a couple of weeks.
The second scenario that could force a final manned mission to Mir is is the Progress M1 vehicle carrying fuel for the deorbit maneuver fails to automatically dock at the station. The unmanned cargo ship is scheduled to blast off on January 28 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Again, Mir's computerized attitude control system needs to be functioning so the Progress can automatically berth at the station. If the docking fails, Sharipov and Vinogradov will be called upon to be ready to blast off within two weeks and dock the Progress at the station using a tele-operated system aboard Mir.
No joy ride
Mir's suicidal plunge will begin with a series of engine burns from the station's core module and conclude with a firing of the main engine of the Progress cargo ship. The deorbit maneuvers are to take place when the station is about 200 kilometers above the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa.
Once the steering maneuvers are completed, Mir will fall through the atmosphere and incinerate. Several large chunks of debris, however, are expected to survive the cremation and splash down in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia.
Mir is scheduled to be driven from space on February 27 or 28, but the exact timing of its demise will depend on Earth's atmospheric conditions. The station is currently circling Earth in a 326- by 352-kilometer orbit.
What are senior Russian space officials saying about the decision to deorbit the Mir Space Station on its 15th birthday?