MirCorp is funding the launch of a new Progress M1 tanker craft to the Mir space station on 15 October to raise the station's orbit to ensure that it can continue commercial operations. Without an orbital boost, Mir would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere early next year.

This month's Progress mission will be the third tanker flight to be funded by MirCorp, which also supported a 73-day mission by two Russian cosmonauts last year.

Meanwhile, MirCorp says it has enough funding for this year, but a decision on Mir's long-term future could be made in November.

MirCorp says that Mir will "remain open for business", including the flight of the first Citizen Explorer Dennis Tito early next year and a flight to the station by the winner of the NBC "Destination Mir" television programme competition. These ventures will raise $40 million, but MirCorp is struggling for further funding and cannot support a long-duration mission by two cosmonauts which was planned for next January and was due to receive the Tito crew in April.

Tito will now be launched on a 10-14 day flight on 18 January. Russia had hoped that Tito would pay $50 million, enough for two Soyuz missions, but he has paid only $20 million, which will support one flight only.

Meanwhile, MirCorp is hoping to market Citizen Tourist flights to the Russian Enterprise module of the International Space Station (ISS). Enterprise is being developed by Energia - a major shareholder in MirCorp - and the US company Spacehab. Energia is proposing to offer the third seat in a Soyuz TM ferry flight to the ISS for space tourism flights.

While NASA may not be in a position to fly tourists in the Space Shuttle, it cannot control how partners use their portions of the ISS.

As well as the Enterprise module, another Russian commercial module is being proposed by a partnership between ISS prime contractor Boeing and Khrunichevo

Source: Flight International