Posted: Tuesday, March 28, 2000
A privately financed manned space flight to reactivate the Mir station and open it for commercial use will blast off on April 4, delivering its cosmonaut crew to the orbital facility two days later.
MirCorp, the private company that holds a lease agreement for commercial operation of the Russian-built and owned station, today confirmed the timeline of this historic flight.
``The April 6 docking will fulfill MirCorp's promise to reactivate Mir -- preparing it for commercial operations that are expected to range from industrial production and scientific experimentation to space tourism and in-orbit advertising,'' MirCorp President Jeffrey Manber said. ``Mir will be the only real conduit to manned space commercialization for many years to come.''
Mir has been unoccupied since 1999, and Russia would have been forced to allow the massive space station to burn up in the Earth's atmosphere if MirCorp had not provided private financing to maintain it.
Two Russian cosmonauts are to be launched April 4 from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome aboard a Soyuz transport spacecraft, and will spend two days orbiting the Earth as they ``catch up'' to the Mir station. The Soyuz docking with Mir on April 6 will deliver the cosmonauts for a stay of more than 40 days on the station -- during which they will bring Mir to a fully operational status.
A live television broadcast is to provide real-time images of the Soyuz/Mir docking on April 6 and of the cosmonauts' entry into the Mir station.
Holland-based MirCorp was formed earlier this year to operate as the direct link between commercial users of Mir and the space station's Russian operators.
MirCorp acts as a facilitator, beginning with the establishment of business conditions for Mir's use and continuing through successful completion of a user's activity on board the station. The company signed a first-of-its-kind commercial lease agreement for Mir in February with RSC Energia, the Russian space systems manufacturer that built and operates the space station.
Shareholders in MirCorp include RSC Energia and venture capital firms. The lead investor is the venture capital firm of Gold & Appel. RSC Energia is the majority shareholder in MirCorp.
The April manned mission is crucial to Mir's future, according to Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria, a telecom and Internet entrepreneur who is one of the key investors in MirCorp. ``Mir's successful reactivation will enable the current investors to continue their backing for the project, and will allow MirCorp to seek additional funding on the capital market for long-term commercial operations on Mir,'' he said.
Dr. Kathuria said MirCorp has retained the services of McKinsey & Co., one of the world's top consulting firms, to develop commercial revenue strategies, find additional strategic partners and define traditional and non-traditional revenue sources.
The Mir space station entered service in 1986, and has been visited by more than 100 cosmonauts and astronauts from countries that include Russia, the U.S., France, Germany, Japan, Austria, the United Kingdom, Syria, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Kazakhstan.
It is an unparalleled orbital facility built over a decade through the assembly of individually launched modules. The massive multi-purpose platform offers more than 400 cubic meters of interior work area. The station is pressurized and temperature controlled, providing shirtsleeve working conditions for crewmembers on board.
More information on MirCorp and its plans to operate Mir as a commercial space station can be found on the company's Web site: www.mirstation.com .
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