The news on Phobos-Grunt’s situation is not at all good I’m afraid.
The spacecraft malfunctioned after its launch on November the 8th. Its engines failed to ignite, stranding the probe in a somewhat unstable Earth orbit. Communication attempts with the probe have largely failed with only a few isolated contacts via the ESA’s tracking stations.
Attempts to reprogram the probes software in an effort to correct the issue have also failed.
Yesterday the ESA announced that their efforts to contact the stricken probe have been suspended. They did add that if the situation changes they will be more than happy to render assistance, though at the moment the horizon is looking bleak.
The window for reaching Phobos has already closed, though if the probe is salvaged it may be re purposed for a mission to an asteroid or comet. If not the probe will fall out of orbit and burn up in Earth’s atmosphere perhaps as early as mid-January, sending years of time, effort and $165 million up in smoke, not something anybody would like to see happening.
Not all hope has been lost for Phobos-Grunt but the light is fading fast …
The new Russian mission to Mars Phobos-Grunt was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan for Mars yesterday.
Initial reports from the craft suggested that all was going according to plan. However it later emerged that their had been a major fault with the launch system.
The cruise stage was to fire its engines twice. Once to reach a high orbit and the second to break free of the Earth’s gravity, setting it on its way to Mars.
Current information suggests that this stage has failed completely, with neither of the two engine burns occurring. As such the probe is now stranded in Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO), initially an official statement suggested that the mission controllers had only three days to correct the issue before the probe permanently depleted its on-board power reserves, highlighting that its solar panels may not be functional. It has since been confirmed that the craft’s on-board batteries are charging successfully, though this is only one time constraint the mission faces.
Its orbit is already decaying and engineers only have a few days (though one report suggests this may be up to a month) before the spacecraft falls below the altitude its thrusters are capable of breaking orbit from. If this occurs the spacecraft is doomed as there is currently no way to rescue or physically repair it. First attempts to correct any programming faults will take place tomorrow, and it may yet be possible for the craft to switch to a secondary propulsion system and break orbit.
The craft is also carrying China’s first Mars’s orbiter Yinghuo-1 so it would be a double distaster if the craft failed.
10/11/2011 – Update – Several attempts to communicate with the craft overnight have failed and so it remains trapped in low orbit. The cause of the engine malfunction is still not known
This post will be updated as we receive more information.
- The Worlds with Two Suns | The Young Astronomers on Binary Stars Blitzed – Updated
- Ed.A on Image of the Week – A Peculiar Pencil – 18/09/2012
- Saint on SS 433 – A Magnificent Microquasar
- SS 433 – A Magnificent Microquasar » The Young Astronomers on Binary Stars Blitzed – Updated
- John Fairweather on A Star’s Death Giving Life to a Monster – Recovered
- New Post from @Lightbulb500 - The Worlds With Two Suns - bit.ly/RUQKuk 7 months ago
- We will also be posting about our plans for the next while both here, on the blog and our Facebook page - on.fb.me/RUQCuA 7 months ago
- Sorry for the long delay in posts, we have all been very busy. We will hopefully have a more regular post program shortly. 7 months ago
- Our latest Image of the Week highlights the star cluster NGC 1929 and the surrounding nebula N44 - bit.ly/QbkwY6 - by @Lightbulb500 8 months ago
- New post by @Lightbulb500 - How to Understand Spectra – Part 2 - bit.ly/NveYoX 9 months ago
TagsAGN Astronomy Astrophysics Big Bang Black Holes Cassini Chandra Curiosity Emission Nebulae ESA ESO Exoplanets Galaxies Gravity High Mass Stars HST Hubble Hubble Space Telescope Image of the Week Infra-red IOTW ISS Kepler Life LMC Mars NASA Nebula Nebulae Planets Russia Saturn Solar System Spacecraft Spitzer Starbirth Star death Star Formation Stars Star Sailor Podcast Supernova Supernovae VLT WISE Young Astronomers