Communications during this operation was via the VHF channel of Soyuz-TM28 on 121.750 mc. For listeners in Western Europa there was a short pass during an elevation of 1 degree. Nevertheless such a lot of traffic could be monitored between 0600 and 0603 UTC that it was clear that the operation proceeded flawlessly. At 06.00.20 UTC Padalka reported that they had finished the fly around and that the Soyuz-TM28 was station keeping on the X-axis. They had the target dish exactly in the centre and were able to see the docking port. The fuel consumption had been very low and the SIRT indicated that there still was 463 KG available. Padalka reported that he did not want to wait and that he was about to approach and dock. At 06.02.30 UTC the distance to Mir was 15 M.
Traffic during the pass in orbit 71521, 0731-0741 UTC, made it clear that the redocking had been successful. The cosmonauts were back on board of Mir. They switched back on all the systems they had switched off before the operation. An air hose had been deployed from the base block to the Soyuz-TM28 and they started the conservation of that ship. During the following passes these activities were still going on.
The new crew: This crew, that of the 26th Mir Main Expedition, presents themselves as if they already were on board for months. Every time I am surprised that cosmonauts making their first spaceflight very quickly adjust themselves to the new situation and demonstrate that they fully have things in hand. Those who selected and trained these cosmonauts did their work well. (This time Padalka is making his first flight, Avdeyev his 3rd.)
On 13.08.1998 something went wrong with this geostationary satellite over 16 degrees West. During the transfer of data of the relaksatsiya experiment from Mir to TsUP the antenna actuator failed. The communications stopped for the antenna of Altair-2 was no longer aimed at the ground station Shcholkovo near Moscow. A provisional damage assessment seems to justify the conclusion that Altair-2 might be lost.
Luch-1/Gelios (95054A - 23680): This relay satellite is placed over 77 degrees East. After the launch on 11.10.1995 it was reported that this satellite would be used for the data , telephony and Television relays for Russian manned space flight. Observers in Eastern Europe who can 'see' this satellite better than we in the west, reported that they never heard or saw anything from that object. Just like Altair-2 Luch-1 has been registered as a military satellite.
Unbelievably soon after the failure of Altair-2 the Russians inserted Luch-1 in the communications chain for Mir -TsUP traffic. After a test communication in the morning of 15.08.1998 the first regular relay of phone and TV between Mir and TsUP could be realised some orbits later. The Russian Television complex Ostankino in Moscow serves as tracking station for Luch-1.
Ostankino is able to handle phone and TV relays to and from Mir, but modifications have to be implemented to do the same with Telemetry (and possibly Packet Radio).
For spacewalks (EVA's), docking and descent operations the position over 16 degrees West is better than that over 77 degrees East. Also NASA preferred 16 degrees West during Phase 1 of Shuttle/Mir and after the failure of Altair-1 in the beginning of 1997 they asked the Russians to transfer Altair-2 from 96 degrees East to 16 degrees West.
More about communications:
I just have learned that the Mir voice relay sites at NASA's bases in the US will remain in operation, at NASA's expense, per a decision by Frank Culbertson to demonstrate US generosity.
The loss of Altair-2 means that the amount of information monitored by me will decrease. I now am depending on that what I can monitor via the VHF-channels.
For some weeks the Russians have problems with the transfer of radiograms by Packet Radio via the service frequencies. Probably the problem has something to with the uplink from a number of tracking stations in Russia. In this period they use for the transfer of radiograms the old RTTY system.
There are no problems with the Packet Radio in the radio-amateur band. Recently they used the 145.985 mc for that purpose, but now they regularly can be heard on 145.940 mc.
The redocking of this freighter was scheduled for 29.08.1998 but has been put back. Now this operation is now planned for 1.09.1998. Based on calculations I think that this will take place at about 0400 UTC. The plan is to execute the approach and docking in the automatic mode by the system Kurs, but Padalka and Avdeyev prepared the TORU, the remote control system for eventual use. Padalka will be ready to take over manually if necessary and maybe he has a chance to earn his 3rd manual docking bonus. For us in Western Europe the elevation during the pass in which the objects are in range during the final phase of the approach (orb. Mir 71596, 0350-0353 UTC) is only 1 degree.
Chris v.d. Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202.