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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Feb > Feb 3

Russian Space Mirror Experiment Schedule

From: Stig Agermose <stig.agermose@get2net.dk>
Date: Wed, 3 Feb 1999 20:40:48 +0100 (MET)
Fwd Date: Wed, 03 Feb 1999 20:44:33 -0500
Subject: Russian Space Mirror Experiment Schedule

Source: Sky And Telescope




Up in the Sky!
It's a Bird,
It's a Plane,
It's Znamya!

By J. Kelly Beatty


Above: When deployed in 1993, Znamya 2's eight reflective panels
did not join along their edges as planned. The resulting gaps
halved the amount of sunlight reflected onto the darkened Earth
below. The object in the center is the Progress-M 15 spacecraft,
which carried the experiment into orbit. Courtesy *Energia Ltd.

Six years ago Russian space officials conducted an orbital test
of a 20-meter-wide (65-ft) reflector called Znamya, the Russian
word for banner. The spinning space mirror directed a 4-km-wide
(2=BD-mile) spot of reflected sunlight along a swath of Europe
that lay in predawn darkness. Although much of the target area
was blanketed by clouds, a few observers reported seeing a
1-second-long flash nearly as bright as the full Moon.

[Map: Left: Thin yellow lines show the path of Mir over the
Earth during the 16-hour test of Znamya 2.5 on February 4th.
Heavy yellow lines indicate where the reflector's light beam
might be directed during the test. Courtesy of Space Regatta
Consortium. (Click on image for larger view).]

Buoyed by this success, the Russians will attempt to deploy
another giant reflector, dubbed Znamya 2.5, on February 4th.
With a diameter of 25 meters, this version incorporates design
improvements that should spread the aluminized 5-micron-thick
plastic sheet more evenly when it is spun out at 1=BD revolutions
per second. Furthermore, Mir cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and
Sergei Avdeyev will orient the reflector by remote control,
keeping it trained on ground targets for one or two minutes at a
time. If all this works as planned, during the 16-hour test
several cities in North America and Europe could find themselves
briefly bathed in artificial light 5-10 times brighter than the
full Moon in the hours after sundown. Observers far outside
Znamya 2.5's directed beam will see the spacecraft outshining
virtually every star as it coasts across the sky in an orbit 360
(225 miles) high.

Znamya Timetable:

4 February 1999 ( * =3D 5 February)

(courtesy Space Regatta Consortium)

Moscow time..UT(GMT)..Local time..Event

13:04........10:04................Progress M-40 undocks from Mir
14:34........11:34................Znamya 2.5 reflector deploys
16:12........13:12....18:12.......beam on Karaganda, Kazakhstan
17:45........14:45....17:45.......beam on Saratov, Russia
19:20........16:20....19:20.......beam on Poltava, Ukraine
20:54........17:54....18:54.......beam on Liege, Belgium
20:56........17:56....18:56.......beam on Frankfurt, Germany  
 2:54*.......23:54....17:54.......beam on Winnipeg, Manitoba    
2:56*........23:56....18:56.......beam on Quebec City, Quebec    
4:30*........01:30*...18:30.......beam on Calgary, Alberta    
4:32*........01:32*...19:32.......beam on Devil's Lake, North Dakota 
5:13*........02:13*...............Test ends, reflector is released

This cosmic klieg light is the brainchild of the Space Regatta
Consortium (SRC), a partnership involving seven Russian
aerospace management and engineering organizations. Vladimir
Syromyatnikov, SRC's general director, hopes the Znamya test
will lead to whole constellations of space mirrors orbiting
1,500 to 4,500 km (1,000 to 3,000 mi) up. With a diameter of 200
meters (650 feet), each satellite could beam down a disk of
light as wide as a city and 100 times the Moon's brightness.
Syromyatnikov imagines such spacecraft being used to illuminate
high-latitude regions of Earth in the hours after sunset or
before sunrise, ostensibly to improve the spirits and
productivity of those forced to endure long, dark winters. The
orbiting beacons might also provide emergency lighting for
cities during disasters. Syromyatnikov even envisions using
SRC's solar-sail technology to propel interplanetary spacecraft
using sunlight alone or to power orbiting observatories.

However, the prospect of an armada of giant space mirrors hardly
comes as a delight to astronomers. "We're having enough trouble
battling light sources on the ground," contends Daniel W. E.
Green (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). "To have to
deal with sources from the sky is very disheartening." Some
preemptive action has already been taken by radio astronomer
Woodruff T. Sullivan (University of Washington). In his role as
president of the International Astronomical Union (IAU)
commission that deals with light pollution, Sullivan is trying
to persuade the United Nations to recognize the night sky as an
important part of Earth's environment and to protect it from
encroachment by artificial satellites.

All this negative reaction is not lost on SRC officials.
According to Chris Faranetta, a spokesman for SRC partner
Energia Ltd., the consortium has pledged to conduct a full
environmental-impact assessment prior to full-scale development.
Faranetta also points out that few observatories exist in the
far-northern regions that the SRC hopes to illuminate. An open
letter to astronomers on SRC's Web site


offers the hope that these "extremist experiments" will someday
provide scientists with "unique tools for real exploration of
the farthest corners of the universe."

=A9 1999 Sky Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
Please read our *copyright and permissions policy.         

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