The Rotational Dynamics of Mir

Michael Foale

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Michael Foale

The Russian Space Station Mir is a solid body with unequal principal moments of inertia. Free body rotations, initially begun about the middle principal axis, in general develop into rotations about the other pair of axes in the course of free motion. This motion is problematic for a station that has lost attitude control and must maintain its solar arrays directed toward the sun to maintain electrical power. This paper uses methods of Euler to calculate the resultant motion of Mir in inertial space, with given total angular momentum and specified initial angular velocities about the solid body axes. The results are used to illustrate the difficulty of setting up an initial free rotation suitable to provide constant illumination of the Mir solar arrays.

Michael Foale is NASA Astronaut/Technical Assistant to the Director. Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in June 1987, Foale has served as Deputy Chief of the Mission Development Branch in the Astronaut Office and as Head of the Astronaut Office Science Support Group. In preparation for a long-duration flight on the Russian Space Station Mir, Foale trained at the Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City, Russia. Most recently, Foale spent four months aboard the Russian Space Station Mir. Dr. Foale will discuss an application of computer algebra to a well-publicized problem involving the rotational dynamics of an orbiting space station.