Spaceflight Now: Space Station Mir

Launch of Progress freighter to Mir scrubbed
Posted: January 18, 2000
Updated: 1300 GMT (8 a.m. EST)

Mir orbiting Earth. Photo: NASA
Orientation troubles aboard the abandoned Russian space station Mir forced officials to scrub today's planned launch of an unmanned Progress freighter that will ultimately deorbit the outpost in March.

Space officials in Moscow reported an electrical problem aboard the station caused Mir's orientation-controlling gyros to shut down today just hours before the scheduled liftoff of the Progress M1-5 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The station's main computer was also knocked off line.

The drop in voltage occurred while Mir was out of radio contact and was not discovered until a communications pass over Russian ground stations at around 0130 GMT (8:30 p.m. EST Wednesday). The Progress launch was scheduled for 0656 GMT (1:56 a.m. EST).

Mission Control is working to understand the situation and reactive the station's orientation system. Without the gyros working, the station is free to drift and lose its proper attitude in space.

Officials at the mission control center in Korolev, outside Moscow, said it will take four or five days for ground controllers to reactivate the orientation system onboard Mir.

The Soyuz rocket, which was not fueled in today's launch attempt, remains ready to launch the Progress craft once Mir is operating normally again on its central computer brain.

The Soyuz-U rocket with the Progress M1-5 spacecraft arrives at the launch pad horizontally and is erected. Photo: Energia
The earliest the Progress will be launched is expected to be Sunday. However, a longer delay is possible.

Russian space officials were quick to stress that the situation is under control and sending a rescue crew to the station was not necessary.

A team of two cosmonauts is standing by to launch to Mir if a major system failure aboard the station prevents Mission Control from orchestrating the upcoming deorbiting from Earth.

The Progress is carrying 2.5 times more fuel than normal for such a resupply ship instead of other cargoes like equipment, food and water.

Instead of delivering vital logistics to station residents, this Progress' main task will be deorbiting the 15-year Mir station through a series of engine firings, culminating with the 130-ton outpost plummeting to a fiery destruction in Earth's atmosphere on March 6.

Anatoly Zak contributed to this story.