Posted: Tuesday, October 24, 2000
Russia's Mir space station is ready for its boost to a higher orbit and for long-term commercial operations following the successful docking of an unmanned Progress cargo spacecraft with fuel and supplies.
Progress M-43's docking on October 21 ensured that sufficient fuel and power are now available to raise Mir's altitude, which has decreased because of the current peak in solar activity affecting all spacecraft in Earth orbit."After the on-time docking of Progress M-43 at Mir, the station is now being stabilized and is awaiting an extension of its useful life as a unique commercial space platform," MirCorp President Jeffrey Manber said. "MirCorp remains totally committed to keeping Mir in operation as the world's only non-government controlled manned space facility."
In addition to its payload of fuel for Mir, the Progress also carries other cargo that will be used by the next crew to occupy the station.
MirCorp will pay Russia for the Progress M-43 mission, as it has done with every unmanned and manned mission launched to Mir since the company began its commercial lease of the station last February.
With Mir ready for the orbital boost by Progress M-43, MirCorp Citizen Explorer Dennis Tito has entered the intensive training phase for his upcoming historic flight to the station. Tito currently is at the Star City cosmonaut base outside of Moscow, where he is gearing up for next year's mission in the first true commercial manned flight opportunity for a private citizen.
Tito has made the initial two of five payments to MirCorp for his Citizen Explorer mission, with the installments completed on the scheduled timeline. The final payment is to be made in December.
The 60-year-old Tito is a former U.S. space program engineer who founded Wilshire Associates ˝ the Santa Monica, California-based company that revolutionized the field of investment management consulting.
"I am excited about this truly once-in-a-lifetime flight," Tito said. "Once on board the station, I plan to be available to help with whatever activity as a member of the Mir crew, and I hope to be able to conduct experiments on behalf of Russian and other researchers."
The Citizen Explorer program is one element of MirCorp's broad-based business plan, which has identified both traditional and non-traditional use of the orbital space platform.
MirCorp is actively informing the Russian government of its vision for long-term commercial Mir operations, which will be strengthened by the company's planned Initial Public Offering (IPO) to raise $117 million in financing.
Manber noted that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov stated this week Mir could stay in orbit if non-governmental funding is available. "This is exactly the approach MirCorp is proposing, and we are encouraged that the Deputy Prime Minister has publicly spelled it out so clearly," Manber added.
MirCorp has asked that Russia's President Vladimir Putin make the final decision on Mir, and the company has requested that Manber meet with the Russian leader.
The Holland-based MirCorp was formed to operate Mir as a truly commercial space platform. It has an exclusive lease agreement with RSC Energia ˝ the Russian space systems manufacturer that built and operates the space station. MirCorp successfully saved Mir from destruction earlier this year, and financed a 73-day mission of two Russian cosmonauts to reactive the orbital facility ˝ opening it for business.
The company acts as a commercial 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. MirCorp is unique in that it performs its space activities without any government money.
In addition to Dennis Tito's Citizen Explorer mission, MirCorp has an agreement with Mark Burnett, executive producer of the internationally known Survivor television series, for the "Destination Mir" TV program in which the winner will travel to Mir. The new reality adventure drama series will run on NBC during the 2001-02 season.
Jeffrey M. Lenorovitz
The InfoWEST Group
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