MirCorp today announced that cosmonauts Sergei Zalyotin and Alexander Kalery and will return to Earth as scheduled in mid-June, completing their historic mission that reactivated the Mir space station for commercial activity.

Their flight which began in early April marked some extraordinary firsts, including the first crew sent to space without government funding, the first operations on board a commercially funded space station and the first commercially sponsored spacewalk.

In addition, the crew successfully began renovating the Mir, repairing critical systems, replacing batteries and finding a troublesome leak. The smooth nature of this flight led to the mission being extended from its originally planned 45 days to more than two months in space.

“We have achieved all the technical milestones planned for this crewís mission onboard the station,” MirCorp president Jeffrey Manber said. “Working with our colleagues in Moscow, we have proven how robust this station is, and demonstrated that the re-opening and saving of Mir captureed the attention and enthusiasm of the entire world.”

MirCorp will spend the next several months planning its business infrastructure, and will announce new strategic partners, investors and customers in the coming months.”We showed the world a new path into space,” said Manber. “Now it is time to build on our success.”

Speaking on behalf of MirCorpís investors, Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria said preparations already have begun for follow-on flights to Mir, with the next manned mission scheduled for the fall of this year and the third manned mission targeted for first quarter of 2001.

“After demonstrating Mirís viability and completing essential renovations, we are convinced more than ever of the stationís long-term usefulness as a commercial space platform,” said Dr. Kathuria, who is one of the two investors in MirCorp. “The cosmonauts inspected Mir in detail and confirmed the station is in good shape. With minor continuing renovation, the station will be operational for the long term.”

The Holland-based MirCorp was formed earlier this year to operate as a direct link between commercial users of Mir and the space station’s Russian operators

MirCorp acts as a facilitator, beginning with the establishment of business conditions for Mir’s use, and continuing through successful completion of a user’s activity on board the station.

The company signed a first-of-its kind commercial lease agreement for Mir in February with RSC Energia, the Russian space systems manufacturer that built and operates the space station. MirCorp is 60 percent owned by RSC Energia, while the remaining 40 percent held by its investors.