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Completed Project
Keep Mir Alive!
MIRNEWS – Number 431, 24 July, 1998 – by Chris van den Berg
reprinted by permission

Mir in orbit
Indefatigably, the 2 cosmonauts on board MIR continued the exploitation of this immense laboratory. Contradictory to the last months it seemed as if the cosmonauts could reduce their attention to repairs and replacement of systems, which enabled them to spend more time and energy to their main task: the preparation and execution of all kinds of scientific experiments. In the west, especially in the U.S.A., media attention for that what is going on aboard MIR is rather poor after the departure of the last American astronaut.

Long series of radiograms, reaching the cosmonauts by the Packet Radio system (originally used by radio-amateurs and which cannot be praised enough) contain enough instructions for experiments to keep them busy day in and day out. Regularly the crew speaks about experiments in the furnaces Optizon, Gallar and Kristall, of which those performed in the Optizon furnace take place in coordination with American experts. Other experiments  which pass the review are Dakon, MAD, Temir, Phantom, Optovert, Maksat and Laser sensing with Alisa.

Communications: For Western Europe the MIR-complex merely comes in range during the night hours and so there is not much traffic via the VHF-channels. During the working day MIR-TsUP communications take place during one window. In the period from 10 to 17.07.98 Altair-2 was in use for other purposes. On 16 and 17.07.98 the 10 GHz channel was in use for the relay of audio and TV transmissions of the ceremonies for the burial of Czar Nikolay-II and his family. Just before the conclusion of the ceremonies, as soon as the first salute of guns was fired the relay of Altair-2 stopped and this satellite could be used for MIR-TsUP traffic again.

On 22.07.98 during a communications session via Altair-2 the cosmonauts called someone with the call sign Agata. They spoke about the BDD-2 (Betriebstechnik Deutschland Direkt), so they used the same system which was operational during the ESA-expedition to MIR (Euromir-95). The crew had received 2 diskettes with a program to activate a computer for BDD experiments. They exchanged data of the experiment Dakon. The communications took place via a station in Russia and not via Oberpfaffenhofen in Germany as was the case during Euromir-95.

Technical failures:
The a.c. BKV-3 still shows hickups just after switching on. An alarm signal points out that something is wrong with the pressure. After switching off and on a few times, the BKV-3 worked well. On 19.07.98 there was again smoke alarm. There was no smoke at all and in this case the smoke sensor was to blame. The malfunction of one of the gyrodynes was also mentioned and one of the solarpanels of the Spektr module does not produce enough energy due to the malfunction of the driver which has to change the angle of that panel. (To eliminate this problem the crew of the next expedition has to execute an internal spacewalk -IVA- inside Spektr). The life support systems are performing well in this period, possibly due to the fact that they have to serve only 2 men. The crew keeps a sharp eye on the CO-2 values, especially during and after physical exercises.

Plans for the near future:
In fact the uncertainty phase still continues. Russian spaceflight organisations are still waiting for the promised funding needed to continue MIR operations until June 1999. The Russians expect that the money will be remitted in due time. And there was another development: the Russian Menatep bank promised to sponsor the last MIR-Mohicans, i.e. MIR's ME 27 from February to June 1999.

Almost certain is:

• that Soyuz-TM28 with Padalka, Avdeyev and Baturin will be launched on 13.08.1998 and dock with MIR on 15.08.1998,

• that the freighter Progress-M39 will separate from MIR on 14.08.1998 for an autonomous flight until the departure of the relieved crew and Baturin with the Soyuz-TM27 on 25 or 26.08.1998 and that the launch of the next freighter Progress-M40 will take place not before 15.10.1998.

• Znamya-2: Several Television programs used the Itar-Tass publication about the execution of the experiment Znamya-2 in November this year to enlighten the dull season program with an interesting item. A Progress-M freighter should deploy a circular reflection sail for the spectacular illumination of a number of cities on earth.

• That this operation might be possible in November is doubtful for after an experiment like this, the freighter has to decay in the earth's atmosphere and cannot return to the MIR-complex to redock to the aft (Kvant-1) docking port. Because of the necessary thermal protection of that port and the Kvant-1 itself, a Progress-M ship has to be docked there until the next Pr-M ship. The period until the docking of the Pr-M41 (not before March 1999) would be pretty long. (And there is also the question if the Progress-M can be redocked after the experiment.)

Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
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