[FPSPACE] Progress to go up on 4-day rendezvous profile

JamesOberg@aol.com JamesOberg@aol.com
Mon, 16 Oct 2000 07:41:50 EDT


Russia Delays Mir Supply Ship

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
.c The Associated Press

  
MOSCOW (AP) - Russian space authorities delayed the launch of a cargo ship to 
the Mir space station on Monday after deciding to blast the space freighter 
on a longer but more fuel-efficient trip, officials said. 

The delay came as private investors who have leased time on Russia's aging 
space outpost hustled to raise money amid statements from Russian government 
officials that Mir will be scuttled unless private funds are found to keep it 
aloft. 

The Progress M-43 supply ship was initially scheduled for launch early 
Monday, but the launch time was pushed back 24 hours, said Vyacheslav 
Mikhailichenko, spokesman for the Russian Aerospace Agency. The change 
reflected a revised flight path intended to save fuel, he said in a telephone 
interview. 

The Progress is now scheduled to dock with the Mir four days after the 
launch, instead of the usual two, Mikhailichenko said. 

The Progress space ships are relatively cheap, remote-controlled vessels that 
hoist fuel and other supplies to Mir. They will also be used to service the 
crews aboard the new International Space Station. 

The Progress launch to Mir is considered critical because it will carry fuel 
necessary to raise Mir's orbit, which has been falling steadily since its 
last crew returned to Earth in June after a 73-day flight. Without fuel, it 
would eventually sink into the thicker layers of the atmosphere and burn up. 

The Russian government planned to dump the Mir early this year, but extended 
its time aloft after the Netherlands-based MirCorp signed a lease agreement 
on the station and provided funds to send up the crew. 

The company said it had funded the Progress launch and announced last week 
that it intends to turn to the stock market to raise $117 million to 
refurbish the 14-year-old station and keep it flying. 

MirCorp's plans include sending Santa Monica, Calif., businessman Dennis 
Tito, as a so-called space tourist to the Russian station. Tito is scheduled 
for launch early next year. He agreed to pay $20 million for extensive 
training and the launch. 

The Russian government, meanwhile, has given conflicting signals on the Mir's 
future. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said earlier this month that the 
station should be dumped because of the lack of funds. 

Russia has been under pressure from the U.S. space agency to dump the Mir and 
concentrate its scarce resources on the International Space Station, which 
has been held back by delays in building Russian components. 

The station's first permanent crew is set to blast off from the former Soviet 
republic of Kazakstan on Oct. 30 for a four month stay aboard the station, 
which now consists of three modules. The station, a 16-nation project headed 
by the United States, will not be complete for another five years, during 
which more than 40 missions will be flown. 

AP-NY-10-16-00 0737EDT