Press Release

Press Conference on Mir and Progress M1-5 transport cargo vehicle docking

By SpaceRef Editor
January 27, 2001
Filed under ,

The press-conference was attended by:

  • Yu.P. Semenov, Korolev RSC Energia General Designer, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences

  • V.V. Alaverdov, First Deputy General Director of the Russian Aerospace Agency

  • N.A. Anfimov, TsNII of Machine-Building Director, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • V.A. Grin Deputy Chairman
    of the Interdepartmental Government Commission,
    Lieutenant-Genera
  • V.A. Soloviev Flight Director, Cosmonaut-Pilot

    Yu.P. Semenov:

    Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen!

    You all were witnesses of the most important phase of work with
    the Mir station – the Progress M1-5 spacecraft docking. This work
    opens the completing phase of Mir station operation and preparation
    for deorbiting into the specified area of the World Ocean.
    We have behind us a 15-year work with a unique crewed complex
    that nobody else in the world has in possession.
    The large scale of the program could be stressed only by simple
    listing:

    • 28 main crews worked at the station;
    • 55 programs were implemented, 27 of them within the scope
      of international cooperation;
    • 31200 experiment sessions were performed within the scope
      of Russian and international programs;
    • 109 dockings with the Mir station were carried out, among
      them 31 dockings of crewed spacecraft, 64 dockings of cargo
      vehicles, 9 dockings of American Shuttles, 5 docking of modules.

    Now about Progress M1-5. It is the fifth spacecraft of such series
    and was especially designed with higher power characteristics,
    delivers a considerable amount of propellant and is intended for
    work with the International Space Station, but takes into account
    special features connected with the completion of work at the
    Mir station. Upon Progress M1-5 spacecraft docking the station
    has enough propellant for deorbiting into the specified area of
    the World Ocean. We understand the world community’s attention,
    since this is a significant operation indicative of which is the
    presence here of so many videotape operators and journalists.
    Believe, we are not only ready to answer your questions, but also
    approach with a high sense of responsibility the implementation
    of planned work program.


    Nobody else came ever so close to the implementation of such an
    operation, performed ever deorbiting of such a complicated and
    unique facility. You know, there were questions with Skylab deorbiting,
    then problems with the Salyut 7 station. How many apprehensions,
    different opinions and comments were available. We have taken
    into account all these lessons and foreseen precisely this operation.
    We do not have all plain sailing. You know that we, beginning
    from December, had some problems with power supply, attitude control.
    But our specialists and MCC departments coped with arising difficulties
    and we solved the problem of Complex attitude control, as well
    as of its power supply.


    Today you have seen – the station is in oriented position and
    we have provided what we should do. This does not mean that everything
    goes smoothly at our station, but at the same time this does not
    mean that it has problems not to overcome. If a crew had been
    available there, practically the questions that had caught the
    public attention in December would not have been simply noticed.
    Because the crew availability – it is certain experience and skills
    to perform timely repair & preventive maintenance work. Since
    the station has been in the uncrewed flight mode for a long time,
    it, as a unique engineering facility, has naturally the right
    to give us such surprises and intellectual concern.


    Now the major events will take place when we take a decision to
    go to oriented flight. The time and sequence of this program implementation
    are to be discussed by the Technical Management and approved by
    the State Commission.


    Today we are considering two options. But the main thing is already
    clear – we will not plan the launch of a crewed spacecraft. Later
    on we will think of what station flight option we will implement.
    It will be likely the transfer of the complex into a spin mode
    to achieve the necessary balance of electric power and afterwards
    in accordance with the program we will build the necessary attitude
    to generate braking burns providing the station deorbiting into
    the specified area of the World Ocean.


    The deorbiting scheme was discussed already long ago. Today we
    are to be found at a 298 km altitude. As a consequence, this gives
    us n opportunity for staying in orbit until the beginning of March,
    2001. True, these terms will be updated, depending on the condition
    of upper atmosphere. Therefore, as preliminary we will be oriented
    to the beginning of March. At this time the orbit altitude should
    be about 200 km and then we will start building the necessary
    attitude for deorbiting and generating the necessary burns in
    well-defined sequence using the propellant available at the cargo
    vehicle and at the Mir station.


    As a matter of fact, it is the main thing at which one may stay
    today. So, we are working on schedule, being oriented to Mir station
    deorbiting, starting at the beginning of this March.

    A voice from the hall:

    Yuri Pavlovich, God
    grant, everything will be OK. But, I understand, you should analyze
    all cases, all troubles. What are you most afraid of?

    Yu.P. Semenov:


    Well, you see, it is
    a whole set of questions. The first one – it was necessary to make
    a cargo vehicle, perform development test, place it into orbit,
    and carry out docking. We have gone this way. There were attitude
    and power supply problems. We have solved them. Today the most critical
    question is not the attitude control question. All the necessary
    things are available on board the station and the attitude control
    exists today. We have a good command of the question, let’s look
    at the question of attitude maintenance using gyrodynes. We will
    solve also this question, but we will be likely to maintain attitude
    using a propulsion system. If to speak honestly, in my opinion,
    we have two months, two months of passive flight, we will check
    the telemetry information about the onboard equipment status every
    day and later on comes up the question of going to the attitude
    building and maintenance mode during deorbiting. But our specialists
    say that we have enough reserves, different roundabout ways. You
    could more than once make sure of it over 15 years of our work with
    the Mir complex.

    Associated Press correspondent:


    Tell, why one cannot
    maintain the oriented state of the station?



    Yu.P. Semenov:


    I have told that the station could
    be held in the oriented flight. But today, for the time being, it
    is not advisable to be oriented to the use of gyrodynes, since the
    probability of "falling down" into unoriented flight remains
    and the system of control moment gyroscopes consumes much electric
    power and the spin mode with pointing towards Sun is currently quite
    sufficient and most economical. Attitude control using attitude
    control thrusters rather than gyroscopes – this is the spending
    of propellant that we plan to use for Mir station deorbiting. Therefore,
    we have selected the most rational option of flight – spinning the
    station towards Sun, that means maintaining the attitude that will
    give an optimum energy influx during two months and will allow propellant
    reserves to be kept we have today on board the station.

    Reuter Agency correspondent:


    What is the probability
    that after going into unoriented flight it will be difficult to
    switch back to oriented one?

    Yu.P. Semenov:


    Well, there is no problem in this
    respect. And no apprehensions. This was done thousand times and
    systems operate properly. We must have, first of all, the necessary
    attitude at the time of braking burn generation. Everything for
    this purpose is available on board the station.

    Moskoviya TV company, Salnikov:

    My question to Soloviev. Tell, please,
    how did you transfer the equipment from Salyut-7 to Mir? And right
    away let Valeri Vladimirovich Alaverdov give us comments and answer:
    did RSA consider, as a matter of fact, anything, as regards the
    recovery of eleven tons and half of equipment that is perishing
    or will perish at the Mir station. Let’s start with Soloviev.

    Yu.P. Semenov:


    It is correct, let Rosaviakosmos
    answer this question.

    V.A. Soloviev:


    15 years ago we have
    solved this task, we had two stations: Salyut-7 and Mir. We have
    launched the core module of the Mir station. And really, then an
    idea was born: since the program at Salyut-7 came to a close and
    there were rather many interesting things – an entire module of
    research equipment that could be used in further scientific experiments,
    a transfer flight of the crew consisting of me and Kizim from one
    station to another and back was planned and we performed such a
    orbital transfer. First from the Mir station to Slyut-7 and then
    from Salyut-7 back to the Mir station. We loaded the utility module
    with the equipment some parts of which have been operating at the
    Mir station up to date: some lenses, photographic equipment has
    proved to be reliable – was operated at Salyut-7 and then at the
    Mir station. As a total, we have brought 600-800 kg of equipment.

    As for the current situation. In principle, such a problem could
    be solved for Mir and ISS. But due to a number of not technical
    problems, as I understand, partially, so to say, political, ambitions
    problems, this was not implemented, RSC Energia submitted a proposal
    to shift the launch of FGB, the first element of the International
    Space Station, but we were denied this.

    Yu.P. Semenov:


    I will continue the
    thought started by V.A. Soloviev, for this purpose we should do
    nothing more than to launch FGB on November 20, but not in the morning,
    and to shift the launch for 6 hours in order Mir station/ISS orbits
    became complanar. Zarya FGB launch should be performed only 6 hours
    later – that was the point. At that time in 1987 Mir station/Salyut-7
    station orbital planes coincided and further proceeding was simply
    a technical matter. And in this case one stood up against this plan.
    Opponents to our proposal were also among those who are sitting
    at this table. And they took a wrong, in my opinion, position of
    supporting the United States of America, although from the General
    Designer’s point of view it was wrong, since we had to deal with
    80 million USD only. TsNIIMASh also has not supported us. It was
    a technically unjustified position that Rocket and Space Corporation
    Energia could not overcome. The question concerning the delivery
    of unique operating equipment from Mir to ISS could be solved at
    once with one Shuttle flight or step by step with two cargo vehicles.
    Such a scheduled operation could be performed using both cargo and
    crewed spacecraft. But today it is the past – the history of the
    year 1998 and it is as we have told. Therefore, we answer such a
    question with pleasure in order nobody thought that somebody of
    correspondents has understanding and we did not study it at that
    time and did not want to implement it. It was a serious talk on
    this subject, with serious technical studies. This epopee lasted
    10 days in November, 1998. By the way, the Khrunichev Center had
    also objections, that means, A.I. Kiselev was in opposition to us
    as well.

    A.M. Peslyak, REN TV correspondent:

    If it was impossible to transfer or keep
    somehow a part of the station, then comes up a question about station
    reboost using, for example, electromotors, – what did Moscow Aviation
    Institute people, Osipian’s people propose? What is the fallaciousness
    of such a concept as a whole?

    Yu.P. Semenov:


    The fallaciousness is
    the following. In fact, practically before the very launch of the
    cargo vehicle that has been docked today, my telephone set was simply
    hot with proposals – let’s reboost the station and give our future
    generation an opportunity for deciding what to do with the station.
    But this is amateurs’ talk. Once we have already made such a step.
    At that time it came from our organisation, in the conditions of
    a dynamically developing industry, when the Buran RSS was in preparation
    for flight tests, we had all reasons for a positive decision and
    we performed the Salyut-7 station reboost. And how all ended afterwards
    you, of cause, know very well. The Buran RSS was closed quietly
    and with what feelings this ended! The people, who had submitted
    this proposal, left the organization. And we were ashamed of flight
    outcome in front of the world community.
    Therefore, the station reboost question is, in principle, a question
    that could be solved. But one may ask: what next? The station should
    "live". And we are struggling today against failures of
    station systems in the uncrewed flight mode, against failures in
    attitude control system, power supply system. The station will not
    be better with the time, it will be getting "old" and
    systems will simply go out of service. And with the time we will
    encounter a lot of problems. Therefore, this proposal makes no sense,
    because it has no real technical advisability. We should care not
    only of flight continuation, station/ crew safety, but at the same
    time we should think of safe termination of work with the station
    for Earth inhabitants.


    Japanese TV correspondent (NHK Corporation):

    Vladimir Alekseyevich, allow me to come
    back once more to the today’s event ant to get to know your opinion,
    your assessment of docking. How do you assess the phase of station
    deorbitng?

    V.A. Soloviev:


    The docking was performed
    absolutely reliably, in the automatic mode, without any special
    deviations we could notice, smoothly to our surprise. And from the
    significance position, this was already pointed out several times,
    – to the Mir station were delivered the necessary propellant reserves
    that allow one to bring it in a reliable, civilized way into a well-defined
    area of the Pacific Ocean.

    Russia’s Voice radio correspondent:

    Vladimir Alekseyevich, you were the first
    to visit the Mir station in 1986. All the "stuffing" was,
    probably an advanced word of engineering, wasn’t it? If to compare
    with ISS, is that "stuffing" by an order of magnitude
    better or the same?

    V.A. Soloviev:


    Well, it should be told
    that in general the Mir station did not get obsolete during 15 years
    of operation. The point is that a modern computer equipment was
    delivered additionally, new software versions for it were made.
    During 15 years we changed the station intellect 5-6 times. In this
    sense we tried to keep its level. Therefore, the station did not
    get old as some people could imagine. Of course, in the International
    Space Station were laid down, sometimes, absolutely other principles,
    more state-of-the-art.

    Yu.P. Semenov:


    The Mir station has
    laid down a classical approach to the development of such complexes.
    First of all, this is modularity. Adaptivity to changes of solved
    tasks in the course of operation. Since neither we nor anybody else
    could foresee the rate of their renewal for 15 years forward. And
    still we took into account that the station configuration could
    be changed. We also "laid down" a maintainability solution,
    because to develop such a station and think that it is a firm and
    stable structure that never goes out of service, – it is nonsense,
    it is unreal. These basic principles remained the same also at the
    International Space Station.
    What Vladimir Alekseyevich speaks about, concerns the equipment
    and keeping its compliance with the state of the art during the
    whole period of operation. And the basic principles of building
    a station of the beginning of the 21st century were laid down at
    the Mir station and extended to the International Space Station.
    These principles include also the following: the first time we changed
    the station intellect, the first time we modified at Mir the software
    via radio link when changing its configuration and tasks to be solved.
    The Salyuts had not got it. The rigid program laid down for the
    Salyut station operated to an end. Therefore, if to speak in large
    terms, in the Mir project was laid down a basic, classical approach
    to a future station project – modularity. Although this includes
    maintainability as well, we repaired devices and onboard computer
    complexes where cosmonauts played a decisive role. Earlier this
    did not seem to us to be reachable. I remember: when during the
    Apollo/Soyuz program implementation a transmitter failed, it was
    a real shock therapy. And now of two ODCC the cosmonauts build one,
    restore the service ability of hydraulic systems and perform many
    repair & preventive maintenance operations which we could not
    even dream of. That’s why we say that the Mir station has given
    and determined, of course, a lot of things for the future. And this
    gives us confidence that at ISS everything will be OK. Further,
    I do not bring to a focus the fact that we insisted that the Mir
    station should necessarily fly no less than 15 years. And this allowed
    us in the 14th year of flight to detect and identify the causes
    of pipelines corrosion. As a result we were forced to delay the
    start of International Space Station deployment in order to take
    measures and not to encounter this problem it in the period of International
    Space Station operation.

    CNN correspondent:


    Mister Semenov, you have spoken here about policy,
    about equipment transportation from the Mir station to ISS, – that
    it was a partially political question rather than a purely technical
    one. Well, it seems that now there will be a lot of such political
    questions. Will be soon. After the Mir station has been not available.
    And here is one question that has already come up, – this is Tito’s
    flight to ISS NASA position is that he should not fly. Can they
    hinder the Russians in doing it at their station segment? What guaranties?

    Yu.P. Semenov:

    In the years we started
    working with NASA we have fitted in well with each other, very well.
    Naturally, there was a different technical approach, different traditions,
    and different cultures. It was so, it took place. But owing to joint
    work in all these years, all this has become a thing of the past.
    And now, as regards the working level rather than the "General
    Staff", I mean the aphorism: "everything was good until
    the "General Staff" interfered, – the things go smoothly.
    As for flights, there are two segments. American and Russian Segments
    Tito’s flight will be organized to the Russian segment. This does
    not mean that we, responsible for the Russian Segment, have said
    it is our affairs, not yours, do not interfere into our affairs.
    These are not relations between partners. That’s why there are documents,
    memorandums. They have fixed that neither the Russian side, nor
    the American side may take an individual decision. They, as well
    as we should, of course, agree on these decisions. That’s why you
    should understand yourselves that not agreed decisions on the station
    should not be taken. This is one side of question. The other side
    – in the memorandum it is written down that the main integrator
    of the entire station is, however, the American side and it is absolutely
    ruled out to take such decisions without informing them about it.
    That means, there is a well-defined scheme of solving this question
    and the sides are abiding by it. And if there are objections, a
    consensus should be achieved. This is a normal process that is inherent
    in the development of such large complexes, but this is the first
    international project of such a kind.

    CNN correspondent:


    And when will Tito fly?

    Yu.P. Semenov:

    Early in this year.

    Interfax Agency correspondent:

    Yuri Pavlovich, I would like to know
    what is the outlook for the Russian Segment?

    Yu.P. Semenov:

    The largest outlook.
    In this year we should launch two crewed spacecraft, four cargo
    vehicles and perform their docking to the Russian Segment. But the
    point is that this entire scope of work has not been funded completely,
    we are partially funding, you know, at the expense of credits, at
    the expense of internal reserves, at the expense of loans and so
    on, and so onĂ– But it gratifies me to note that this work has been
    already included into Russia’s Federal Space Program. They are about
    to sign a contract with us. Under development are scientific power
    platform, docking compartment, and universal docking module. All
    are a whole set of most important elements. We hope all will be
    implemented.

    FrancePress Agency correspondent:


    Yuri Pavlovich, information has been
    spread that Russia asked the USA and European countries for help
    on the subject of Mir splashdown operations control. In particular,
    American aids can be used.

    Yu.P. Semenov:


    Our Armed Forces have
    proposed it too. A special commission headed by Yuri Nikolayevich
    Koptev has been established, absolutely all departments, including
    the Ministry of Foreign Affaires, the Ministry of Defense, etc.,
    will be involved in its work. The whole complex of aids that could
    be used during this complicated operation will be involved. Such
    a complicated operation is performed the first time in the history
    of world astronautics. This is a natural action of cooperation.
    And why should we not use all these things? The station will fall
    to pieces, entering the dense layers of atmosphere. And in order
    the community knew the objective picture how it will happen, certainly,
    it is advisable to involve any controls. Because we will be sure
    to have the people who will try to create myths saying that the
    station could go where it was not planned. Strangely enough, but
    we always have such "ballistics" people although they
    have no relation to the work.

    N.A. Anfimov, TsNIIMASh Director:

    We have actually addressed the United
    State of America, NASA and the European Space Agency with a request
    to use all available additional space controls. In particular, radars
    available in Europe, the USA and the other parts of the world to
    monitor the Mir orbit in the final phases of its flight when it
    is very important to have maximally exact information, to know everything
    about the parameters of this orbit. This is especially important
    since above Russia’s territory go not all the orbits, but only a
    part – about a half of orbits. And the other half of orbits is outside
    the visibility from Russia’s territory. That’s why we are interested
    to have information about Mir trajectory on "silent" orbits
    as well, which is, of course, very important.

  • SpaceRef staff editor.