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Thursday, 20 January, 2000, 13:41 GMT
Mir stays in space - official

Mir: Back in business, but for how long? Mir: Back in business, but for how long?

By BBC News Online Science Editor Dr David Whitehouse

Russia's Mir space station, which has been orbiting the Earth empty for nearly half a year, is to stay in space until August at least.

This is the official word from the head of Russia's Space Agency, who says several flights to Mir will take place over the next few months.

Yuri Koptev told a news conference in Moscow that more non-government financing had been found to keep the station operating.

His announcement had been expected after a private company came forward last week saying it was prepared to pay for Mir to stay in space and was studying various options to commercialise the ageing space station.

Cargo ship

"A cargo flight will take place on 1 February, and a crew will follow in April, with a further cargo ship to go up a month later,'' Koptev said.

Service The Russian-built service module for the ISS has suffered many delays
"Talks are going on with a company on investment,' said Yuri Semyonov, head of the Energiya Rocket Company, Mir's builders.

"The first funds have already been received and more financing will be forthcoming if certain conditions are met. The money is there, but it has to be released."

Energiya said earlier this month that a British Virgin Islands' investment company Gold and Appel had agreed to send $20 million by March to allow Mir to stay in space.

American concern

Last week, the Russian Space Agency privately told Nasa that Mir would not be scrapped as promised but will continue in orbit.

Two Russian cosmonauts will be launched in a Soyuz-TM spacecraft on 31 March to reclaim the station, which has been drifting in space since the last crew departed in August.

A Russian movie actor may be included in the crew.

Some American space officials are dismayed at Mir's new lease of life, as new Russian activity on Mir has interfered with support promised for the International Space Station, the construction of which is now years behind schedule.

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See also:
14 Jan 00 |  Sci/Tech
Mir may become space hotel
11 Oct 99 |  Sci/Tech
Two crews prepare for Mir mission

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