Status Report From: MIRNews
Posted: Monday, April 17, 2000

Working-hours and communications:

As already mentioned in MIRNEWS.474 the 28th Main Expedition can only take advantage of the tracking stations within the territory of the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan. The chain of these tracking facilities starts in the Far East with Petropavlovsk Kamchatka and ends with the stations near St Petersburg and Shcholkovo near Moscow. These days the communication windows for MIR and TsUP open at about 2200UTC and this sequence closes at approx. 0800UTC. The beginning of each window every day shifts approx. 20 minutes and so the 'communications day' begins earlier every day. To make it possible to use these modest possibilities as efficient as possible the working-day is now determined by the communication windows. So during their working-hours the cosmonauts can depend on TsUP.

To be honest: this situation should not be acceptable in this technically advanced era. A space station has to be able to dispose of fully covered communications with controllers on earth. American space shuttles have the possibility to communicate with their flight control in Houston almost 24 hours every day by the use of a number of TDRS-s. The Russians have proved to be masters in the art of improvisation, but great gaps in communications are risky.

The expedition which is going on is fully controlled by TsUP, but nevertheless the organisation, which made this flight and eventual following ones possible, is highly responsible. At least this organisation should have to invest money for the extension of the communication structure for instance by the launch of 1 or 2 geostationary satellites of the Altair series or to lease Luch-1 transponders in active geostationary comsats. Another possibility might be the use of 2 of the 4 tracking ships now mothballed in St. Petersburg. With so many enthousiastic multimillionaires this must be possible.

Windows for my position:

The passes of the MIR-station for my position mainly take place in the night-hours and so I have to monitor traffic by the use of a time switch which activates my tape recorder during passes. So I am able to cover 5 or 4 of the 6 passes and thus receiving a lot of traffic.

The beginning of the 28th Main expedition: Already on their first day on board the cosmonauts started to work on the most important task: to secure a livable atmosphere. They started with adding air and in this way the pressure was increased to 628 MM Mercury.

They did this during MIR's orbit 80785, 1102-1107UTC. Then the crew reactivated the Central Post in the Base Block. They also regenerated air cartridges. Thereafter they 'deconserved' the PRK (transition chamber to the module Kvant-1) and that module itself. Control computers were loaded with needed data after which a number of system commands could be controlled automatically.

During the pass in orb. 80786, one and a half hour later, the cosmonauts reported attitude control data. They started air pressure checks using the mano vacuummeter (MVM) from the BO (lifecompartment of the S-TM30) and agreed upon the use of the same MVM for all pressure measurements. Measurements during 07.04 gave values between 625 and 619 MM Mercury.

On 7.04 and the following days radiotraffic was very dense. The accent was put on the work on the life support systems, like the replacement and installation of ventilators, the separation of a cooling loop to be able to purify this, work on the BKV (a.c.), while on 9.04 the Elektrons, the electrolysis oxygen generators, got the first attention.

To make accurate pressure measurements in these parts of the complex possible, the SO (docking compartment at the Kristall module) and the Priroda were shielded off hermetically from other parts of the station. The crew had switched on one of the Elektrons, but this switched itself off.

On 9.04 the cosmonauts took some time for the exchange of congratulations with the oncoming Day of Cosmonautics. During one of these sessions Zalyotin told that it had been very difficult for him to accustom himself to micro gravity conditions.

On 10.04 the real work started. Meanwhile the pressure was 622 MM Mercury and the mysterious leakage was not in that SO (docking compartment), for the pressure there did not change. The Elektron was active and connected with a Gas Analyser. Before that they had burnt 2 disks (shashki - lithium perchloride cartridges) for additional oxygen. They worked hard on the cooling loop (KOKh-1) and executed the separation of that circuit.

On 11.04 the work on the cooling loop was still going on. In a friendly contact with a lady on earth the crew emphasized that it was very difficult to start to live in house that had been untenanted during 6 months.

12.04, Day of Cosmonautics, the necessary congratulations, among which those of cosmonaut and RKK Energiya chief, Aleksandrov. The crew reported that they repaired the heating loop KOB-2. Then an uplink TV session from earth was established. During the next pass the TV session was bilateral. Again congratulations, but festivities or not the work had to go on. The pressure was now 617 MM. The cooling loop KOKh-2V had been activated by computercommands.

Then there was a sad announcement given by Zalyotin: all tritons delivered to the station for experiments passed away. Again 3 shashki (Lithium Perchloride cartridges) were burnt, obviously the oxygen production of the Elektrons had been insufficient. On 13.04 a lot of work on water management, so condens, the connection of watertanks, regenerations, water with airbubbles, etc. The pressure on board was 613 MM.

On 14.04 again much traffic about the work on water systems, but also about visual and camera observations of flooded areas near rivers in Hungary, Rumania and Poland. Zalyotin shows his expertise in this field possibly gathered by him during his carreer as an airforce pilot. He asks for more accurate instructions about the wishes of those who asked for these observations. This day the pressure is 628 MM and meanwhile the Elektron in the Kvant-1 module is active, the Gas Analysator inclusive.

On 15.04 students from Russia and other CIS-countries, who participate in a workshop, visit TsUP and ask questions. On one of the questions Zalyotin answers that the flight is proceeding well and that all has been activated, that they carried out the necessary repairs and that they are feeling well. On the question how the station sustained the 6 months lasting conservation Zalyotin answers that all was normal, but he and his crewmate did not like the fact that there was no dinner ready after their arrival. When in the past a new crew arrived all was ready and that is very convenient. So this time they had to do this all themselves. A lot of questions about the atmoshpere and life conditions in the complex. Answer: the problem with the temperature has been solved. The temperature in the Base Block is now 25 degrees C, but a little bit lower in the other modules.


The first one took place on 16.04 at 0043UTC, the second one on 17.04 at 0100UTC. 43 minutes later, during the first pass for my position, Zalyotin reported that the impuls worked well and did not give any problems.

So for a while old orbit predictions cannot be used.

Physical training: Due to the amount of work the crew did not yet execute their obligatory daily physical training today.

UGLI POSADKI: During the last pass for my position TsUP gave the so called Ugli Posadki, the times for the angles of attack of the Landing Apparatus in case of an eventual emergeny return to earth.

Further orbitcorrections: not planned for the near future.

Progress-M1 nr. 2: The launch of this freigher is provisionally scheduled for the night from 25 to 26.04.2000.

Spacewalk (EVA): Also on very provisional basis planned for 11.05.2000.

Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202


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