Report on press-conference at MCC
after Progress M1-5 transport cargo vehicle docking with Mir station on January 27, 2001

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,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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 onЕ 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
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.




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