[FPSPACE] Questions about Mir/MirCorp
Dwayne Allen Day
Mon, 25 Sep 2000 10:13:07 -0400 (EDT)
[I'm going to chop some of this so as not to violate copyright laws]
>Mir desperately needs funding to keep it aloft, safe
>Copyright 2000, Interfax News Agency.
>MOSCOW (Interfax) - The orbit of the Russian space station Mir is dipping
>closer to Earth and will become unsafe by February of next year unless
>additional sources of funding are identified.
An orbital guru has told me that Mir's orbit is still higher than it was
before the last reboost. I wonder if the rate of decay is what has them
worried. Maybe February is the point at which the station is too low for
a reboost or a docking of a de-orbiting craft.
Although the latest MirCorp press release does not state so explicitly,
the Progress M is apparently intended to do the reboost now, this fall, so
that a reboost is not needed in February.
>MirCorp, the private company responsible for Mir's maintenance and
>operation, has only enough funding for this year, company president
>Jeffrey Manber told Interfax.
Now what exactly does this mean? If we read it literally, it means that
MirCorp does NOT have enough money to fly Tito next year. That would be
interesting if true, because it would mean that they have to get more
money BEFORE they can fly Tito for that mission. And based upon how he is
paying them, they may have already used some of his money to pay for
this Progress M mission (my guess is that his deal is something like 50%
now and 50% later, so they might only have $10 million or less from him,
and they might have spent that on the Progress mission).
>Talks with various media outlets and
>investment firms have proved fruitless so far and the only reliable
>contact is with the NBC television network, which plans to send a man
>into space in 2002, Manber said.
I think that this is the most important part of the article. It is a
concession that MirCorp is not making money from many of the sources that
they claimed would provide revenue. Remember that they had plans for a
"web portal" and talked about setting up cameras this fall all over Mir
and selling access. That is not happening.
In addition, what about the research revenue that they were going to
generate? What about the "several other" potential tourists that they
were going to get? (In particular, they were rumored to be very close to
a deal with an Italian firm. Does anybody know what happened there?)
The statement "Talks with various media outlets and investment firms have
proved fruitless so far" stands in contrast with the MirCorp press release
of the previous day:
"Walt and I are more convinced than ever of the long-term business
prospects for Mir, and we will continue to fund MirCorp's
operations," Dr. Kathuria said. "The Dennis Tito and 'Destination Mir'
missions are just the beginning of commercial uses that we have identified
in our broad-based business plan."
They have confidence in its long-term business prospects, yet Manber has
conceded that it does not have any money to operate past December. How do
you get to long-term if run out of money in two months?
And Manber's concession that they are not finding investment money is bad
news for their plans to go IPO next year. Would you buy stock in a
company that admits that investment firms want nothing to do with
it? (Actually, I was looking forward to buying one share so that I could
get a cosmonaut to sign it for me...)
[snipped mention of Progress M mission to Mir]
>Control Center experts say that Mir's position in space will become
>unsafe by February due to the effects of increased solar activity on the
>station causing the safe orbit time to be continuously reduced.
Presumably, this is only if the current Progress M mission fails,
right? Or is another re-boost also needed by February even if this one
goes off? (None of the press releases or media articles make this clear.)
[snipped mention of what happens if the Progress blows up--Manber says
that the launches are covered by insurance. Is this Western insurance or
insurance provided by the Russians?]
>A final decision on Mir's
>future will be made in October or November, when the financing situation
>becomes clear, he said. A conference of chief designers will decide, in
>particular, what to do about the planned trip to Mir by Dennis Tito, a
>U.S. tourist, now scheduled for early next year.
Okay, so this seems to be the way things stand:
-in mid-October, a Progress will fly to Mir and re-boost it
-after that mission, they will decide what to do next, determining whether
or not they have enough money to fly Tito.
The original plan was for a 2-man crew to launch in early 2001 and stay in
orbit for several months. Around mid-year, Tito would go up with another
2-man crew. He would then come down after 10 days with the first crew and
the second crew would stay up.
According to another comment on this list, Tito did not want to wait until
mid-2001 to fly. And MirCorp has rescheduled from 2 long-duration
missions to 2 short-duration missions (which they now apparently cannot
afford unless they get addtional money). Presumably Tito would go up and
return with the first mission. It then becomes difficult to see how the
"Destination Mir" winner would fit into this, unless the second
short-duration mission is delayed until 2002, or MirCorp suddenly
gets a lot more money next year (from the IPO?). In the meantime, MirCorp
would probably have to re-boost the station, meaning that they would need
another Progress to do this.
No matter what, they need to get money to buy 2 Soyuz and 1 Progress
missions for next year.
In retrospect, it seems apparent that MirCorp was expecting to have other
paying customers to keep its long-duration crews busy manufacturing wonder
drugs and taking pictures of volcanoes and junk like that. But that has
not panned out and it looks like they are pretty much left with the
The saga continues...