The Russian Government has finally decided to withdraw support for the Mir space station - a decision which will lead to Mir being de-orbited. The space station is scheduled to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere on 27-28 February next year.


Debris from the station is expected to impact the Pacific Ocean 1,500km (800nm) to 2,000km west of Australia. Two Progress tankers will be required for the de-orbiting burns. The move will delight the USA, which had been concerned that Russian efforts to keep the station flying were distracting efforts from the International Space Station.

A planned MirCorp Soyuz TM manned mission to the station, due to carry US space tourist Dennis Tito, may still be launched in January to assist in the preparations for the de-orbit.

Russia has allocated R750 million ($27 million) for the de-orbiting. Yuri Koptev, director of the Russian Space and Aviation agency said that MirCorp's attempt to commercialise the venerable space station had not been successful. Safety was the main reason for deciding to ditch it. "We cannot guarantee its safety," he said.

Some fragments of the 130t space station which survive the re-entry could weigh as much as 700kg (1,500lb), and be capable of making a 2m (6.5ft) hole in reinforced concrete.

Although MirCorp's commercial hopes for the station have been dashed, it is possible that its interest could move to the Russian portions of the International Space Station.

Source: Flight International