Rocket engines used to maintain Mir's pitch, angle
The pitch and angle of the Russian space station Mir are currently being maintained with the help of its rocket engines, the press service of Mission Control in Korolyov near Moscow has told Interfax.
This is a forced measure because the 12 gyrodynes that are supposed to guarantee the station's orientation without burning rocket fuel are not operating steadily, the press service said.
Mission Control does not regard the situation as critical because Mir currently carries about 120 kilos of rocket fuel which should last until the arrival of the Progress M1-5 tanker spacecraft now on the launch pad at the Baikonur cosmodrome. Its launch is slated for 7:29 a.m. Moscow time January 24 and docking with Mir for 8:30 a.m. Moscow time January 27.
Mission Control has stressed the extreme importance of the unmanned docking of the tanker with the station. If there is any failure in the operation of the automatic equipment, a rescue crew will have to fly to the station to manually dock Progress with Mir.
The manned Soyuz TM spaceship for the rescue crew is also being brought to full readiness in Baikonur.
Mission Control experts say that even if the tanker fails to dock with the station, Mir and Progress will stay in space without any threat to the Earth at least until April. There is one more cargo spaceship of the Progress series in Baikonur that could be used to replace Progress M1-5.
The deorbiting of Mir and its sinking in a safe area in the Pacific are scheduled for March 6, but ballistics experts will check it many times before the actual dumping.
Cosmonauts Train For Mir Destruction Mishap
A cargo ship, Progress, is due to be launched on January 18 to give the Soviet-era space station the final nudge that will alter its course and send it hurtling back to Earth on either February 27 or 28.
But fears the hazardous ditching operation may not go smoothly have led to the training of two emergency rescue teams.
The first team, composed of cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Nikolay Budaryn, were simulating a loss of contact with earth followed by a dysfunction in the station's docking system.
The Russian space agency said the decision on whether to send the rescue teams will only be taken after the launch of Progress on January 18.
Progress was initially due to be sent into orbit on January 16 but the launch was put back for two days for technical reasons and lack of funds.
The 130-tonne space station, which was only built to last up to five years but has been in orbit for 15, is expected to disintegrate as it re-enters the atmosphere, most of its components burning up in the denser air and the remainder splashing down into the Pacific around 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) east of Australia.
Russia has said it will "guarantee the Mir station's safe descent to be buried in the world's ocean."
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Russia To Launch Last Progress To Mir Jan 24
Moscow (AFP) Jan. 20, 2001
The joint government commission for taking the Mir space station out of orbit, on Friday set the date for the launching of a Progress M1-5 cargo ship to the station for the morning of January 24 and its docking with Mir for January 27.