Russian Space Agency to Take Out Insurance on Disposing Mir

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Mar 6, 2001 - 11:25 AM

Russian Space Agency to Take Out Insurance on Disposing Mir By Vladimir Isachenkov Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's space agency is taking out insurance against any damage the ailing Mir space station might cause when it is guided down later this month, the Russian Aerospace Agency said Tuesday. Despite official optimism that the Mir safely plunge into a remote area of the Pacific Ocean, the space agency is negotiating with three Russian companies to insure against possible damage, a premium estimated at $200 million.

"The insurance is just another attempt to assuage fears," Russian Aerospace Agency spokesman Sergei Gorbunov said during an Internet news conference.

He added that the three Russian insurance companies expected to participate in the plan had "nothing to fear," because the orbiter's fall would be safe.

Mir will most likely be brought down into the Pacific Ocean between March 18 and March 20, although no exact date has been set, Gorbunov said.

The space agency will pay the insurance costs from its own pocket, because the state budget doesn't provide for it, he said.

Gorbunov wouldn't give further details, saying the contract was still being finalized.

The long history of Mir's glitches, including a fire, a near-disastrous collision with a cargo ship and a string of computer breakdowns and power outages, has fed fears that it could spin out of control and rain debris on populated areas.

Japan has been especially concerned, because Mir is expected to pass over its territory on its final, low orbit. "We have grown tired of repeating that there was no danger for Japan," Gorbunov said.

One of Mir's designers, Leonid Gorshkov, also sought Tuesday to play down public fears. "Debris from dozens of booster rockets and hundreds of meteorites annually reach Earth and nothing terrible happens," Gorshkov said at a separate news conference.

Gorbunov said Tuesday that space officials are now waiting for the station to naturally drift down to an orbit about 155 miles from Earth instead of using up precious fuel to speed up the descent.

"We don't want to spend extra fuel to lower its orbit," Gorbunov said, adding that it's necessary to save as much fuel as possible to make sure that Mir's de-orbit is properly controlled.

After Mir reaches the 160-mile orbit by the end of this week, space officials will take a series of steps to prepare for the moment when a Progress cargo ship docked with the station will fire its engines and send the 143-ton station hurtling down.

The most tricky part will include bringing Mir, which is now rotating slowly, to a fixed position in orbit. The process would require a lot of power, and Mir's batteries are old and unstable.

Most of Mir will burn up when it enters the atmosphere, but some 1,500 fragments with a total weight of up to 28 tons are expected to survive the fiery re-entry and fall over an ocean area between Australia and Chile.

In 1978, a Soviet satellite crashed in northern Canada, scattering radioactive fragments over the wilderness but causing no injuries. A year later, the unoccupied U.S. Skylab space station fell to Earth, spreading debris over western Australia. No one was hurt. http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAEDJ8UZJC.html

-- Carl Jenkins (somewherepress@aol.com), March 06, 2001

Answers

but some 1,500 fragments with a total weight of up to 28 tons are expected to survive the fiery re-entry

Yikes! Put on your tinfoil hats! <::::-

-- spider (spider0@usa.net), March 06, 2001.


Headline: Mir space station's terminal plunge scheduled for March 20

Source: Associated Press, 7 Mar 2001 MOSCOW (March 7, 2001 2:23 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com) - Russian space officials on Wednesday set March 20 as the date for dumping the Mir space station, saying they want the craft to drift closer to Earth before they give it a final shove toward a fiery plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

However, they warned the date for Mir's long-delayed demise may still vary depending on solar activity, which expands the atmosphere and creates friction with the 15-year-old station.

Space officials had previously said they would start steps to prepare for Mir's controlled descent after its orbit drops to 155 miles by the end of this week. But Deputy Mission Control chief Viktor Blagov said Wednesday that space engineers decided to let the orbiter descend to 132 miles before discarding it.

"Mir's de-orbit is tentatively set for March 20," Blagov said at a news conference.

Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said that controllers want Mir to move closer to ensure they have as much fuel as possible for the final push.

"The closer to Earth the station comes, the less fuel is needed," he said.

The trickiest part of the preparations will include bringing Mir, which is now in a slow rolling and rotating motion, to a steady position in orbit. The process will require fuel and a lot of electric power, and Mir's batteries are old and unstable.

Mission Control lost contact with Mir for 20 hours in December because of a sudden power loss. Space officials have since tried to minimize power consumption by switching off most of the station's equipment. They have also allowed Mir to roll, because keeping it stable would use limited fuel reserves.

Blagov said that Mission Control would stabilize Mir just one day before the dumping, and played down fears of a power outage or a computer glitch resulting in a chaotic plunge.

"We have seen numerous voltage and communications problems, but they posed no danger to the station because we were always able to recharge the batteries," Blagov said.

In case Mir's skittish central computer fails, Mission Control can direct the descent using the computer on the Progress cargo ship docked with the Mir, Blagov said.

On March 20, the Progress will fire its engines twice during two consecutive orbits and then, several hours later, fire again to send the 143-ton station hurtling toward the Pacific between Australia and Chile. The last maneuver will take place over Russia so Mission Control can monitor it using Russian radar stations.

"The station will descend over Russia, China and then head down into the Pacific Ocean," Blagov said. He said it would take about 45 minutes from the last engine push for the station's debris to reach the Earth's surface.

Blagov said Mission Control has vast experience dumping spacecraft, because cargo ships are disposed in the same way.

Most of Mir will burn up in the atmosphere, but some 1,500 fragments with a total weight of up to 27.5 tons are expected to make it to the surface.

On Tuesday, Russian officials said they were negotiating a $200 million insurance policy against any damage the orbiter could cause when it plunges to Earth.

Past re-entry accidents have included the 1978 crash of a Soviet satellite in northern Canada, scattering radioactive fragments over the wilderness but causing no injuries.

A year later, the unoccupied U.S. Skylab space station fell to Earth after its orbit deteriorated faster than expected. Ground controllers tried to aim it into the ocean, but debris came down on a sparsely populated area in western Australia. No one was hurt.

-- Andre Weltman (aweltman@state.pa.us), March 08, 2001.


Moderation questions? read the FAQ