Mir "burial" mission launched
BY ANATOLY ZAK
Posted: January 24, 2001
The last unmanned cargo ship blasted off toward the Russian Mir space station bringing one step closer the conclusion of the mission for the 15-year-old orbital outpost.
The Progress M1-5 spacecraft carrying propellant for Mir's deorbiting maneuvers blasted off from Site 1 in Baikonur Cosmodrome at 0428:42 GMT (11:28:42 p.m. EST Tuesday).
The three-stage Soyuz rocket deployed the spacecraft into its intended 193.9 x 242.2-kilometer, 88.6-minute orbit at 0437:31 GMT.
The Progress M1-5 will spend at least three days chasing Mir on a propellant-saving trajectory. The craft will use its small attitude control thrusters instead of its main propulsion system to match its orbit with the one of the station.
The Progress M1-5 will conduct at least five engine burns, which expected to bring it to the 260 x 299-kilometer orbit close enough to start final rendezvous with Mir. The station is expected to be at 296 x 313-kilometer orbit.
The Progress is expected to arrive at the aft docking port on the Mir's Kvant-1 module on January 27 at 0531 GMT (12:31 a.m. EST).
The old Progress M43 spacecraft is expected to undock from Mir at on Wednesday to make room for the new ship.
As a precaution, Progress M43 will not be deorbited until the new Progress safely docks with Mir. The Progress M43 carries food rations and compressed air, which could be used by the emergency crew onboard Mir, if such expedition is required to ensure safe deorbiting of Mir.
The launch of the Progress M1-5 was delayed from January 18 due to problems with energy supply onboard Mir.
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. The fuel load totals 2,677 kilograms.
Instead of delivering vital logistics to station residents, this Progress' main task will be deorbiting Mir through a series of engine firings, culminating with the 135-ton outpost plummeting to a fiery destruction in Earth's atmosphere on March 6.
Russia has been urged to ditch Mir because of safety concerns the station could fall to Earth in an uncontrolled fashion, threatening to rain debris over populated areas of the globe anywhere from 51.6 degrees north or south of the equator.
NASA also wants Mir eliminated so Russia's scarce space budget can be spent on the international space station.
Mir required $200 million per year for safe operations.
Commerical efforts by MirCorp to sell tourist trips to the station failed to generate the amount of money needed to keep Mir afloat.