After 86,331 Orbits, Mir Space Station's 15 Years In Space Ends

(Feb 19, 1986-2001)

March 28, 2001

Reentry Over Fiji (Reuters)
Mir Mir Mir
Source RSA

"Mir and Its Objectives" by David Harland


Mir Information

As planned, Mir's re-entry was successfully acomplished on March 23, 2001 at around 05:43 UTC 80 km above the local day-night (dusk) terminator line in the South Pacific at 175 West longitude and 25 South latitude. Here's a graphic of Mir's approximate reentry location .

Mir's orientation was stablized around 02:00 UTC on March 22.

The first burn (duration 21 minutes) at apogee set for 00:33 UTC on March 23 to lower the perigee to 190 km over the planned reentry area using the Progress main engines was reported successful.

The second apogee burn (duration 23 minutes) planned for 02:02 UTC to change the orbit to 190 x 160 km was reported successful.

The final braking maneuver took place at 05:07 UTC over northern Africa (Libya). The burn ended over Mongolia 22 minutes later. It was planned to have an orbital parameter of 190 x 79 km causing reentry about 34 minutes later with impact at 06:00 UTC.

A SeeSat-L subscriber reports on the South Pacific observation from aircraft.

The progress of Mir's reentry was provided by Spaceflightnow .

Bob Christy provides approximated predicted orbital elements for Mir after the final reentry burn on SeeSat-L . He also provides a graphical display and analysis .

Here is Harro Zimmer's burn data from SeeSat-L .

CNN provides a video of the reentry over Nadi, Fiji.

Graphs of Mir's altitude over a period of time can be found at the Amateur Satellite Observer of Southeast Virginia .

Mir element sets (latest on top)

Mir Complex  04:57 UTC 23 March 2001 (pre-reentry burn) 215 x 150 km
1 16609U 86017A   01082.20636684  .00382588  12180-4  29147-4 0  7827
2 16609  51.6362 249.6171 0048914 224.8684 134.9353 16.33569098863305

Mir Complex       04:10 UTC 23 March 2001               193 x 159 km
1 16609U 86017A   01082.17420660  .44402778  11910-4  43348-2 0  7816
2 16609  51.6196 249.7886 0026531 205.9392 324.3294 16.36088465863295

Mir Complex      01:10 UTC 23 March 2001                219 x 190 km
1 16609U 86017A   01082.04872685  .54147929  11669-4  16223-1 0  7794
2 16609  51.6239 250.5088 0022023 198.2846 314.6942 16.25492635863273

Mir Complex     22:09 UTC 22 March 2001                 217 x 212 km
1 16609U 86017A   01081.92334318  .00905378  11898-4  39359-3 0  7787
2 16609  51.6348 251.1851 0003524 208.4275 291.6897 16.21854268863255

Mir Complex     17:08 UTC 22 March 2001                 218 x 213 km
Mir Complex     11:13 UTC 22 March 2001                 218 x 214 km
Mir Complex     23:57 UTC 21 March 2001                 220 x 214 km
Mir Complex     11:47 UTC 21 March 2001                 222 x 216 km
Mir Complex     12:02 UTC 20 March 2001                 226 x 221 km
Mir Complex     12:08 UTC 19 March 2001                 230 x 224 km
Mir Complex     12:24 UTC 18 March 2001                 234 x 227 km
Mir Complex     12:39 UTC 17 March 2001                 237 x 230 km
Mir Complex     11:23 UTC 16 March 2001                 240 x 232 km
Mir Complex     11:57 UTC 15 March 2001                 242 x 234 km
Mir Complex     05:52 UTC 14 March 2001                 246 x 237 km
Mir Complex     10:31 UTC 13 March 2001                 248 x 239 km
Mir Complex     10:42 UTC 12 March 2001                 251 x 240 km
Mir Complex     12:21 UTC 11 March 2001                 253 x 242 km
Mir Complex     12:30 UTC 10 March 2001                 256 x 244 km
Mir Complex     09:40 UTC  9 March 2001                 258 x 246 km
Mir Complex     14:17 UTC  8 March 2001                 260 x 247 km

March 28, 2001: Chris v.d. Berg's thoughts in his final report on Mir.

March 17, 2001 : Chris v.d. Berg continues to monitor Mir's telemetry in his Mirnews.495 report.

March 10, 2001:Chris v.d. Berg provides additional information on the upcoming re-entry of Mir in his Mirnews.494 report. Mir is presently unmanned with Progress M1-5 attached to provide a long duration impulse to take Mir out of orbit.

March 1, 2001: Igor Lissov has forwarded a preliminary report (via SeeSat-L ) by the Russian authorities to the United Nations regarding the planned re-entry of Mir into the South Pacific.

February 14, 2001 : Chris v.d. Berg provides additional thoughts on the upcoming re-entry of Mir in March in his Mirnews.493 report.

January 5, 2001 : Chris v.d. Berg provides his thoughts on the upcoming re-entry of Mir in his Mirnews.487 report.

Chris v.d. Berg has graciously allowed us to present his reports here on the VSO Mirnews page.

Earlier events and reports on Mir can be found here .

Here are a few Mir statistics (February, 2001):

Milestones and Events

Mir Configuration

Mir model

The Mir Complex (satellite catalog number 16609/ International Designation 86017A) was launched on the 19th of February, 1986, replacing the successful Salyut series of space stations run by the Soviets throughout the 1970's and 1980's. Operating in an orbit some 390 km high, inclined at 51.6 degrees (the optimum launch direction from the Baikonur (Tyuratam) Cosmodrome is north of east to avoid flying through Chinese air-space), the space station is modular in design and has been slowly constructed in such a manner.

The crew in TM-1 first occupied Mir on March 14, 1986. With the exception of EVAs/or moving the Soyuz from one docking port to another, Mir has been un-occupied only on five occasions.

The Mir 1 Crew left Mir on May 5, 1986 for Salyut 7.

Sources: David S. F. Portree and David Harland

Mir Core Module

The Mir complex consisted of the original core Mir core module (dimensions 15 x 4.15 m, mass about 20000 kg) that was launched in Feb 19, 1986. It provided the basic services of living quarters, life support, power and thermal control.


At the rear axial port of Mir (on the +x axis) was docked the Kvant(17845/87030A) astrophysics module (5.8 x 4.15 m, 11000 kg) which was launched on 31st March, 1987. This second module was technically known as Kvant, but is identified in some resources as Kvant 1 so as not to confuse it with the later Kvant 2 module.

The Kvant module housed the Roentgen astrophysics observatory with the Pulsar x-ray telescopes, a gamma ray detector and the Glazar UV telescope. Also mounted on this module was the Sofora mast structure, 14 meters long, with an roll control thruster package at one end. The pitch and yawl attitude of Mir was maintained by gyrodynes.

A rear axial docking port (on the +x axis) of Kvant was used to accommodate the arrival of either a Progress-M or Soyuz-TM vehicle.

The Progress M re-supply vehicle (7.5 x 2 m, 7000 kg) is capable of free-flight for extended periods. When a Soyuz docking took place it undocked either for a destructive re-entry or maintained in orbit. When the older docked Soyuz returns to Earth with the relieved crew, the Progress may be re-docked until relieved by another Progress vehicle. The Progress M uses solar arrays to charge its power supply system's batteries. While docked to the Mir, its engine can be used to maintain or alter the space station's orbit.

In the early 1990's the Progress vehicle was equipped with a small return capsule called the Reentry Ballistic Capsule (VBK) (mounted to the forward docking hatch) to return material back to earth. In 1995 the use of this capsule seems to have been discontinued with the periodic docking of the Shuttle with resupplies to Mir. The expendable vehicle is loaded with any materials for disposal. The Progress-M separates to normally make a destructive re-entry over the South Pacific.

The Soyuz-TM vehicle (7.5 x 2 m, 7000 kg) can deliver 2-3 cosmonauts depending upon what type Soyuz booster is used. It normally took 2-3 days to reach the space station and it is capable of remaining docked for up to 200 days prior to returning to Earth.

Forward axial/radial docking (-x)port

On the forward end of the Mir core module (opposite the Kvant module) was the forward axial docking port that delineates the center of the (-x) axis. On this docking port either a Progress or Soyuz vessel was docked. The four radial (side) ports on this forward module captured the four remaining modules on the y and z axis.

Kvant 2

On one of the side ports (+y axis) was docked the Kvant 2 (20335/89093A) module (12 x 4.4 m, 20000 kg) which was launched on the 26 November, 1989. This carried technical support facilities and amenities. It also houses the airlock which the Cosmonauts used to access the outside of the Mir complex in extravehicular activities (EVA). The airlock had also served as "home" to the visiting American astronaut as the Spektr module was no longer habitable.


On the opposing side port (-y axis) was the Spektr (23579/95024A) remote sensing module for geophysical sciences (12 x 4.35 m, 19,640 kg). It was launched on May 20, 1995 and arrived at Mir on June 1, 1995. Integral to the Spektr module was a planned robotic arm system that would be able to dispense/retrieve experiments located externally on Mir.

This module suffered solar array and hull damage on June 25, 1997 when Progress M-34 was being manually maneuvered from Mir to re-dock to the Kvant module. This module was depressurized and isolated from the remainder of the Mir complex. Modifications had been made to the Spektr hatch to allow power and control cable penetrations through the hatch, while still isolating Spektr from the remaining station. These modifications allowed power generation to return to approximately 70% of the pre-collision conditions.


On another side port (the -z axis) was the Kristall (20635/90048A) industrial processing module (12 x 4.4 m, 20000 kg). Launched 31 May 1990, this module was used for semiconductor and biological experiments. It also housed Earth observation instruments.

Attached to the end of Kristall was the Mir/Shuttle docking module delivered by Atlantis on mission STS-74 on November 14, 1995. Thus, the Shuttle docked to Mir on the -z axis.


Finally, the Priroda (23848/96023A) remote sensing module (12 x 4.35 m, 19,700 kg) was launched on April 23, 1996, and resided at the final vacant side port on the +z axis. This module housed passive and active radiometers (IKAR), a synthetic aperture radar (Travers), an infra-red radiometer (Istok 1), a spectrometer for measuring ozone and aerosol concentrations (Ozon-M), visible and infra-red spectrometers (MOZ-Obzor), optical scanners (MSU-SK, MSU-E) and a device for remote interrogation of geophysical stations (Centaur).

You can find more information on the Earth remote sensing experiments conducted on Priroda here.

Thus, the final configuration of the Mir complex (32 m long, 30 m wide, 27 m high) was:

Additional links related to Mir

Anatoly Zak provides an informative web site on the history of Mir.

You can find archived reports on Mir activities from Chris v. d. Berg.

The public broadcasting service in the US that produces NOVA has an interesting site for information on Mir.

NASA maintains an interesting site on the Shuttle-Mir Web .

Mark Wade's Encyclopedia Astronautica has information on the Mir Program and many other interesting space topics.

Observing the Mir Space Station.

Viewing Mir


The Mir complex (estimated -0.7 magnitude) crosses the evening sky above Barcelona, in Catalonia, Spain on December 12, 1998 at 17:44 UT (18:44 local) with the sun approximately 15 degrees below the horizon. The time exposure intensifies the city lighting on the buildings. (Photo by Jordi Aloy )

The Mir space station and its attendant modules could be seen at intervals throughout the year. Mir was typically seen for a couple of weeks in evening skies, then was lost for roughly the same time in daylight, reappeared for a couple of weeks in morning skies, was eclipsed for a short time (depending upon the observer's location and time of year) before returning to an evening sky. When visible it could be quite bright, reaching magnitude -1 or better, thanks to the large combined surface area of its modules. It was not untypical to catch a flash of up to mag. -3 off one of its solar arrays. In binoculars a hint of a bronze-yellow color could often be seen.

Somewhat less predictable were events such as the dumping of rubbish. In the past a lot of spent materials were dumped overboard to be allowed to re-enter earth's atmosphere. Observation of any such dumping would need a dark sky, good binoculars and luck to witness. Rubbish was later routinely placed in the Progress-M vehicle to be disposed of upon re-entry. During some EVAs, related material could be seen in the vicinity of Mir by using binoculars.

Occasionally various craft were deployed from Mir which had been observed. Earlier in 1996 the Russian-German GFZ-1 satellite (23558/86017JE) was orbited from one of Mir's airlocks. This small, 21 cm diameter, 20 kg ball was being used for orbital geodetic studies being studded with laser retro-reflectors for range-finding purposes. Detection of it would require a dark sky and binoculars.

A different study was conducted on 4th February, 1993, when a departing Progress M-15 vehicle deployed the Znamya (86017GZ) solar reflector. This 20 meter diameter reflector was reported as an experiment into solar sailing and an investigation as to the degree of solar energy that could be reflected to the ground (the beam appeared brighter than the Moon over Russia, was spotted on the ground by the then resident Mir crew and was still seen as bright as magnitude -5 whilst tumbling out of control just prior to re-entry). Solar radiation pressure caused it to decay within a couple of days.

Links: to the VSO Home Page, the observing guide itself, observing the shuttle, the Mir-shuttle program, the International Space Station program, the satellite predictions themselves.

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