Russians again lose contact with Mir : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

I Can’t Hear You — In yet another setback for Mir, Russian Mission Control has lost contact with the space station.

Russian mission control has stopped receiving data from Mir and so are unable to confirm whether the unmanned space station is carrying out the instructions the Russians are transmitting, sources told ABCNEWS.

As a consequence they have stopped sending instructions and will leave the Mir on its current course 200 miles above Earth — a course the space station can hold for approximately three months if necessary.

If contact is not re-established, the sources said, Russia may have to send a new team up to Mir. It would take three weeks to assemble a team and launch them to the space station. Mir is only accessible for certain periods as the 130-ton station orbits Earth. Any significant loss of contact with the 15-year-old spacecraft sparks fears the aging orbiter could crash into populated areas on Earth. Not a Good Day This has not been a good week for Russia’s space program. Russia also lost six communications satellites today when a booster rocket carrying them to space from a far northern cosmodrome crashed into the Atlantic. It was the second failed satellite launch from the site in as many months.

Three civilian and three military communications satellites were launched Wednesday from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the Russian Arctic atop a Ukrainian-made Cyclone-3 booster rocket. And earlier this week, Mir suffered another communications breakdown when flight control outside Moscow lost contact around 3 p.m. (1200 GMT) on Monday. After several failed attempts over a troublesome 24 hours, Russian space officials restored contact with the space station on Tuesday. “There has been communication and now we are analyzing the data,” the official, who did not give his name, told reporters at Mission Control outside Moscow.

Russian Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov said a sudden discharge of all batteries aboard Mir was responsible for the earlier communications breakdown but did not know what had caused the loss of power. The batteries were now accumulating energy. Once they are fully charged, computers will start checking equipment on board to identify the fault, he said. Solovyov acknowledged that the glitch was one of the most serious in the station’s history. “It was a very serious failure, one of the most serious failures when we’ve lost communications,” he told reporters today.

Due To Be Dumped Once the pride of Russia’s space program, which gave Moscow by far the world’s greatest experience in long-term manned space flight, Mir has suffered a spate of disasters in recent years, prompting Russian officials to schedule its dumping into the Pacific Ocean in February.

But ditching Mir into the Pacific between 900-1,200 miles off Australia requires guiding the station out of orbit to ensure the bulk of its debris avoids populated areas. News agencies reported that if ground control failed to make contact with Mir a rescue mission could be sent to ensure the craft fell safely into the ocean. That could involve cosmonauts Salizhan Sharipov and Pavel Vinogradov, who are currently completing training.

Even before the current crisis, Russian space officials had warned that upon re-entry, some Mir debris could strike land. Chunks weighing some 1,500 pounds would hurtle back to Earth with enough force to smash through six feet of reinforced concrete, Yuri Koptev, head of Russia’s space agency, said in November.

But the latest loss of contact with the spacecraft is expected to increase Russian popular support to bring down Mir in February. Mir was launched on Feb. 20, 1986. Its last crew returned to Earth in July.

ABCNEWS’ Sergius Morenc in Moscow, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

-- Martin Thompson (, December 28, 2000



Mission Control Has Contact With Mir

by VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia's Mir space station suffered a minor glitch in orbit when controllers on Earth tried but failed to tilt it so more solar panels would face the sun, a Mission Control spokesman said Friday.

The complication Thursday was minor and will not affect the craft's overall flight worthiness, said spokesman Valery Lyndin. It was routine for Russian engineers, who fly the 140-ton orbiting station by remote control, he said.

Controllers will try the maneuver again later, he said.

Lyndin denied Russian media reports Friday that Mission Control had lost radio contact with the Mir, as it had earlier this week.

''The station is under control and follows commands from the ground,'' he told The Associated Press.

Mission Control lost radio contact with the aging station on Monday but managed to regain it Tuesday afternoon. Officials blamed the failure on a sudden and unexplained loss of power by Mir's batteries, motivating controllers to try to preserve power.

The mishap stoked fear that the station, scheduled to be discarded in a controlled descent, could spin out of control and scatter debris over populated areas in a fiery plunge through the atmosphere.

Controllers have had regular contact with the station since Tuesday, Lyndin said. Thursday's failed maneuver sought to place the station in an orbit that would expose the solar wings to the sun, bringing in more power. It also would align the craft for a planned docking with a cargo ship early next year.

''Ground controllers preferred to save fuel and not repeat the maneuver,'' he said.

Space officials said they would launch a cargo ship to push Mir down in a controlled manner on Feb. 27-28.

In case of complications, a crew will be ready to fly to the station and direct the dive, Russian Aerospace Agency chief Yuri Koptev said this week. It takes two days to reach the station from the Earth.

On Friday, the Interfax news agency and Russian television reported that Mission Control had again lost radio contact with Mir, and that the failure had prompted the space agency to move up the plan to send cosmonauts to the station to January.

Lyndin said sending a crew to ensure a trouble-free docking with the cargo ship would be preferable, but added that space officials still hope to do the job with an unmanned cargo vessel, to cut costs. He said officials may still change their mind and send cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Nikolai Budarin to the station in January.

Mir has survived several accidents, including a fire and a near-fatal collision with an unmanned cargo ship in 1997. Its latest crews have spent much of their time trying to fix problems, and experts have warned it was risky to leave Mir uninhabited. The station had only one, 73-day mission this year.

AP-NY-12-29-00 0959EST< 

-- Rachel Gibson (, December 29, 2000.

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