Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

MirCorp signs commercial lease of space station Mir
Posted: Feb. 18, 2000

The Russian space station Mir as seen by a U.S. space shuttle. Photo: NASA
A new era of space commercialization began February 17 with a private company's authorization to lease the Russian Mir manned space station to users and individuals worldwide.

The accord enables Amsterdam-based MirCorp to make Mir available for operations that are expected to range from space tourism and in-orbit advertising to industrial production and scientific experimentation.

This is the first time a manned orbital space station has been opened for true commercial activity outside of government funding.

The lease agreement was signed in London by Dr. Yuri P. Semenov, president and general designer of Russia's RSC Energia, and Jeffrey Manber, president of Mir Corp. RSC Energia is Russia's largest space systems manufacturer, and it built and operates the Mir station. MirCorp is the Holland-based company created to make Mir commercially available for international users.

"With this agreement, we begin a new phase of commercial space operations," Manber said. "The extraordinary Mir space station remains open for business, and we believe it will capture the attention of millions of people. Mir is one of the great wonders of humankind."

The lease arrangement provides for continuation of the Mir's in-orbit life, subject to the availability of commercial funds.

"RSC Energia is pleased to explore a new path in our efforts to attract commercial funds and business to the Mir space station," Dr. Semenov said.

MirCorp is the direct link between commercial users of Mir and the station's operators. The company acts as a facilitator, beginning with the establishment of business conditions for Mir's use and continuing through successful completion of a user's activity on board the station.

MirCorp's shareholders include RSC Energia and venture capital firms. The lead investor today in MirCorp is the venture capital firm of Gold & Appel.

"Mir is too valuable a resource to be thrown away," Gold & Appel Chairman Walt Anderson said. "We will build on the proud heritage of Mir, enabling commercial support to keep the station alive."

Another key investor in MirCorp is telecom and Internet entrepreneur Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria. "The commercialization of space - specifically MirCorp - opens up tremendous opportunities in pharmaceutical/medical research, satellite repair, and eventually the beginnings of space colonization," Dr. Kathuria said. "We hope that when the history books are written, this event in the pioneering of space commercialization will have the same significance as the Wright Brothers' contribution to the of pioneering aviation."

MirCorp is expanding its management team as the company moves into the commercial operations phase. The newest member is Andrew Eddy, who will be responsible for MirCorp business development. Eddy previously was the Canadian Space Agency manager responsible for Canada's commercial participation in the International Space Station.

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