Tag Archives: Phobos-Grunt

The Russian commission investigating the failure of Phobos-Grunt has concluded that the spacecraft failed because of Russian engineering errors, not U.S. sabotage.

Why am I not surprised? The Russian commission investigating the failure of Phobos-Grunt has concluded that the spacecraft failed because of Russian engineering errors, not U.S. sabotage.

I had suspected this whole kerfuffle was a fake issue inspired by Russian politicians. This report proves it.

In a break from standard practice, U.S. military has removed the links to its tracking data of Phobos-Grunt.

Could the Russians be right!? In a break from standard practice, U.S. military has removed the links to its tracking data of Phobos-Grunt.

On Jan. 12, the Space Track website originally published information on the estimated re-entry track for Phobos-Grunt, a Russian probe that malfunctioned shortly after its November 2011 launch and was stuck in low-Earth orbit for more than two months.

After routine updates and revised estimates over the course of the next two days, the military removed links to these re-entry predictions and did not publish final confirmation data on the spacecraft’s fall on Jan. 15, according to Aviation Week.

A careful analysis of recent activities by U.S. radar show that it could not have affected Phobos-Grunt. Yet, the U.S. military has now taken actions that not only break with standard procedures, they draw attention to the issue. All very astonishing.

Russia is now claiming that a U.S. military radar might have disabled Phobos-Grunt.

Looking for scapegoats: Russia is now investigating whether a U.S. military radar signal might have disabled Phobos-Grunt.

The state news agency RIA Novosti quoted Yury Koptev, former head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, as saying investigators will conduct tests to check if a U.S. radar emissions could have impacted the Phobos-Ground space probe, which became stuck in Earth’s obit for two months before crashing down. “The results of the experiment will allow us to prove or dismiss the possibility of the radar’s impact,” said Koptev, who is heading the government commission charged with investigating causes of the probe’s failure.

The current Roscosmos head, Vladimir Popovkin, previously said the craft’s malfunction could have been caused by foreign interference. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin acknowledged U.S. radar interference as a possible cause but said it was too early to make any conclusions. “This version has the right to exist,” Rogozin said Tuesday. “There is evidence indicating that frequent disruptions in the operation of our space technologies occur in that part of the flight path that is not visible to Roscosmos and is beyond its control.”

Though this might be technically possible, it is incredibly unlikely. For Russian politicians to focus on this issue indicates serious problems in both their space engineering community and their political culture.

Phobos-Grunt due to crash to Earth anytime in the next ten hours

path of Phobos-Grunt's reentry

Updated and bumped. An updated prediction from Aerospace now calls for Phobos-Grunt to come down sometime between 9 and 3 pm (Eastern). This puts the U.S. now out of danger, though Europe, South America, Africa, Australia, and the southern half of Asia all remain in the spacecraft’s path.

Watch your heads! Phobos-Grunt is due to crash to Earth anytime in the next ten hours. And unfortunately, this new prediction has it flying over both North America and much of Europe and Africa during that time period.

Phobos-Grunt’s reentry this weekend

path of Phobos-Grunt's reentry

Watch your head this weekend: The re-entry of Phobos-Grunt has been refined, and is expected to come down sometime between 5 pm (Eastern), Saturday January 14 and 9 am (Eastern), Monday January 16.

As you can see by the image on the right, there is as yet no way to predict where it will land, though it appears that — except for the tip of Florida — North America is in the clear. The blue lines show its orbital path during the first half of this window, while the yellow lines show its path during the window’s second half.

Phobos-Grunt is now expected to fall to Earth sometime around January 16

It’s official: Phobos-Grunt is now expected to fall to Earth sometime around January 16.

Meanwhile, the head of the Russian space agency is looking for a scapegoat for his country’s recent space failures.

Roskosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told the Izvestia daily he could not understand why several launches went awry at precisely the moment the spacecraft were travelling through areas invisible to Russian radar. “It is unclear why our setbacks often occur when the vessels are travelling through what for Russia is the ‘dark’ side of the Earth — in areas where we do not see the craft and do not receive its telemetry readings,” he said. “I do not want to blame anyone, but today there are some very powerful countermeasures that can be used against spacecraft whose use we cannot exclude,” Popovkin told the daily.

With leadership like this, Russia might soon join the U.S. as a country unable to get astronauts into space.

Phobos-Grunt: what’s in a name?

Some English commentary from Russia: Phobos-Grunt: what’s in a name?

And this is the part when I point out that Russia’s unmanned Mars missions, which have not been successful so far, have a name problem that goes beyond Phobos-Grunt.

Mars-94? M1 No. 520? Seriously? What is this dour nonsense? Soyuz-Fregat was an improvement, but still, considering the consistent failure rate of the Mars missions, it’s time to get serious about breaking that curse. Take a page out of the Americans’ book, just this once, and inject some optimism into your space program. The Americans give their *successful* spacecraft names like Phoenix! And Spirit! And Opportunity! So name your spacecraft a variation on the word Hope! Throw caution to the wind and name it Kickass! Certainly don’t name it after terror, even if the satellite you plan on exploring is already stuck with that unfortunate name.

An update on the efforts to save Phobos-Grunt

An update on the efforts to save Phobos-Grunt.

“The first pass was successful in that the spacecraft’s radio downlink was commanded to switch on and telemetry was received,” said Wolfgang Hell, ESA’s Service Manager for Phobos–Grunt. Telemetry typically includes information on the status and health of a spacecraft’s systems. “The signals received from Phobos–Grunt were much stronger than those initially received on 22 November, in part due to having better knowledge of the spacecraft’s orbital position.”

The second pass was short, and so was used only to uplink commands – no receipt of signal was expected. However, the following three passes in the early morning of 24 November proved to be more difficult: no signal was received from Phobos–Grunt.

ESA antenna contacts Phobos-Grunt again, this time downloading telemetry data

An ESA tracking station has once again contacted Phobos-Grunt, this time downloading telemetry data.

“We have again established contact with the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, we obtained telemetry reports, they are being analyzed by our colleagues from the Lavochkin Research and Production Association,” ESA spokesman Rene Pischel said.

Russian space agency head says there is still a chance to save Phobos-Grunt

The head of the Russian space agency said yesterday that there is still a chance to save Phobos-Grunt.

“The probe is going to be in orbit until January, but in the first days of December the window will close” to re-programme it, he told Russian news agencies at Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

He also said that the probe will not pose a threat, and will burn up in the atmosphere if it should fall to Earth.

Toxic Russian Mars probe aims for Earth

It now looks like the stranded and toxic Russian Mars probe, Phobos-Grunt, is likely aimed at Earth.

We are looking at an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario. Phobos-Grunt . . . is fully-laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that’s ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs-in at only three tons. . . . Phobos-Grunt’s batteries are draining and its orbit is degrading. It looks as if the probe will reenter later this month/early December. NORAD is putting a Nov. 26 reentry date on Phobos-Grunt.

It looks bad for Phobos-Grunt

It looks bad for Phobos-Grunt.

“Overnight, several attempts were made to obtain telemetric information from the probe. They all ended with zero result,” Interfax quoted a source in the Russian space sector as saying. “The probability of saving the probe is very, very small,” added the source, who was not identified.

Phobos-Grunt appears to be in trouble in Earth orbit

Phobos-Grunt appears to be in trouble in Earth orbit.

In a posting to an online forum for the Phobos-Grunt mission, Anton Ledkov of the Russian Space Research Institute reported that there was “no telemetry” from the spacecraft.

Another report suggests that a variety of engine thrusters did not fire as planned.

Russia heads for Mars

Russia heads for Mars: a detailed look at the Phobos/Grunt sample return mission, set to launch on November 8.

I really wish the Russians good luck with this project. Not only would it herald their return to planetary science since the fall of the Soviet Union, success here would break their long string of failures to the red planet. Though their unmanned planetary program had some remarkable achievements during the Soviet era, of the 19 missions they flew to Mars in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, all were failures, producing almost no useful data.

The U.S. and the rising Russian space program

The Russians yesterday successfully launched their first space telescope since the fall of the Soviet Union. Here is a Google translation of a Russian article describing Spektr-R’s research goals:

[Spektr-R is] designed to study galaxies and quasars in the radio, the study of black holes and neutron stars in the Milky Way, as well as the regions immediately adjacent to the massive black holes. In addition, using the observatory, scientists expect to receive information about pulsars and the interstellar plasma. It is planned that the “Spektr-R” will work in orbit for at least 5 years.

Though this particular space telescope is probably not going to rewrite the science of astrophysics, its launch is historically significant. It indicates that Russia has just about recovered from the seventy-plus years of bankrupt communist rule that ended in 1990.
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