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Forum:Soviet - Russian Space
Topic:Russia's Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars' moon
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The ambitious Phobos-Grunt mission is aimed at bringing back soil samples from Phobos in 2014 to pave the way for the exploration of the Red Planet.

The $163-million spacecraft is carrying an array of 20 instruments designed to gather and transmit data from the vicinity of Mars and from the surface of Phobos.

Phobos-Grunt is also carrying several other payloads, including a Chinese sub-probe Yinghuo 1 that will separate from Phobos-Grunt and go into orbit around the Red Planet, as well as a capsule with microbes to study how life forms survive long flights through deep space.

The probe is expected to reach Mars in September 2012 and drop its lander onto Phobos early in 2013.

If everything goes well, it will be the first successful Russian planetary exploration mission, following the loss of the Mars-96 orbiter in a launch failure in 1996.

Robert PearlmanRIA Novosti (source)
Russian probe fails to set course to Mars — Roscosmos

A robotic spacecraft to the Mars moon Phobos launched early on Wednesday has failed to reach a flying orbit after separation from the launch vehicle, the head of Russia's Federal Space Agency said.

The Zenit-2SB launch vehicle carrying the Phobos-Grunt probe lifted off from the Baikonur space center at 12:16 a.m. Moscow time (20:16 GMT on Tuesday). The spacecraft was supposed to use its own booster to reach the designated flying trajectory, but failed to do so.

"It has been a tough night for us because we could not detect the spacecraft [after the separation]," Vladimir Popovkin said. "Now we know its coordinates and we found out that the [probe's] engine failed to start."

"It is a complex trajectory, and the on board computers could have simply failed to send a "switch on" command to the engine," Popovkin said, adding it's an emergency situation, which has been anticipated and could be corrected.

"We will attempt to reboot the program. The spacecraft is currently on a support orbit, the fuel tanks have not been jettisoned, and the fuel has not been spent," he said.

According to Popovkin, the technicians have three days to start the on board engine and put the probe on the designated trajectory before the batteries run out.

Robert PearlmanRIA Novosti (source)
Russia has two weeks to put Mars probe back on track

Engineers have up to two weeks to correct the path of a Russian probe bound for Mars, a top space official said on Wednesday.

Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, said engineers had two weeks to re-start the probe's booster before its batteries ran out.

"A more thorough analysis of the orbit's parameter and the supply of fuel onboard has shown that such commands must be delivered within two weeks," Popovkin said, adding that the craft can stay in the orbit for up to four weeks.

Robert PearlmanRIA Novosti (source)
Russia yet to make contact with Mars moon probe

Attempts during the night to receive a signal from the unmanned lander Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which failed to reach its orbit after separating from the launch vehicle on Nov. 9, have so far been to no avail, a source in the space industry said on Friday.

"The spacecraft repeatedly passed over the Baikonur station and other Russian and foreign points of space communications during the night. There is no news yet," the spokesman said.

The craft, designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos, is currently stuck in a "support orbit."

The source also said that the probe might strike Earth no earlier than Dec. 3, but by that time it may be back in service.

Citing data from the U.S. space surveillance systems, several media reported earlier on Friday that the probe may crash to Earth on Nov. 26.

Robert PearlmanRIA Novosti (source)
Russia again fails to make contact with Mars moon probe

Russia has again been again unsuccessful in its attempts to establish contact with its Phobos Grunt probe, whose engines failed to put in on course for Mars after takeoff, a source in the space rocket industry told RIA Novosti on Saturday.

"Attempts to make contact were made overnight and this morning by Russian specialists from the European Space Agency. This was done from Baikonur [Kazakhstan] and other tracking areas, but contact was not established," the source said.

He also said Russia was being assisted by U.S. scientists and had until November 21 to make contact.

Robert PearlmanInterfax (source)
Phobos-Grunt not considered lost yet

The chances of establishing communication with the interplanetary probe Phobos-Grunt will continue until January 2012, when the craft is expected to enter Earth's atmosphere, Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin said.

"It will be continue orbiting until January," Popovkin told reporters at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

If Phobos-Grunt falls to Earth, it will burn in the atmosphere, he said.

"There is not much chance that it will reach Earth," Popovkin said.

Phobos-Grunt is carrying 7.5 tonnes of fuel, Popovkin said. "We have no doubt that it will explode when it enters the atmosphere," he said.

Robert PearlmanRIA Novosti (source)
Last chance to send Russian Mars moon probe expires Monday

The launch window to send Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft to a Mars moon will close Monday, an airspace source told RIA Novosti.

"The spacecraft has already unfolded its solar panels and is in the so-called "barbeque mode," the source said, speaking about the passive thermal control mode during which the spacecraft rotates slowly around its roll axis to prevent one side from continuous solar exposure and overheating.

"So, the ballistic window for Phobos-Grunt's flight to Mars is limited by November 21," he said.

The Russian space agency expects the possible reentry to take place no earlier than January and hopes to establish contact by then.

Igor Lisov, editor of the industry magazine Cosmonautics News, said if contact with the spacecraft is established after the launch window's closure, it could still be sent to [Earth's] Moon or even to an asteroid.

However, he said there were almost zero chance the probe would be revived.

Robert PearlmanEuropean Space Agency release
ESA tracking station establishes contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt

On Tuesday, Nov. 22 at 20:25 UT, ESA's tracking station at Perth, Australia, established contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt. This was the first signal received on Earth since the mission was launched.

ESA teams are working closely with engineers in Russia to determine how best to maintain communication with the spacecraft.

Robert PearlmanEuropean Space Agency release
ESA station keeps contact with Russian Mars mission Phobos-Grunt

Following the first successful contact on Tuesday (Nov. 23), ESA's tracking station in Australia again established communication with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft on Nov. 23. The data received from the spacecraft have been sent to the Russian mission control centre for analysis.

ESA's 15 m-diameter antenna at Perth, Australia, was again used to contact Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft during the night of 23-24 November, with a total of five communication passes open between 20:19 and 04:08 GMT.

Teams working at the Perth station and at ESA's Space Operations Centre, Darmstadt, Germany, were delighted to see a clear signal during the first of the passes.

Telemetry received via Perth station

"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 to uplink commands only – no receipt of signal was expected.

However, the following three passes in the early morning of Nov. 24 proved to be more difficult: no signal was received.

ESA engineers assist Russian mission controllers

Working with Russian flight controllers, ESA engineers are carefully studying the situation, which may be related to the spacecraft's communication system. During last night's first two passes, one of the two low-gain antennas on Phobos-Grunt was, due to the spacecraft's orbital position, oriented toward Perth, and communications worked.

During the three later passes, the probe's orbital position changed, and the second, opposing, antenna had to be used — but no signal was received.

"Our Russian colleagues will use this result for troubleshooting and to plan their commands for us to send tonight," says Manfred Warhaut, ESA's Head of Mission Operations.

Communication support continues tonight

ESA engineers will work today to provide advice and assistance on possible communication strategies to consolidate the contact now established with the mission.

Another five communication slots are available during the night of Nov. 24-25, and the Perth tracking station will again be allocated on a priority basis to Phobos-Grunt.

Robert PearlmanRIA Novosti (source)
ESA halts attempts to contact Russian Mars moon probe

The European Space Agency (ESA) said Friday (Dec. 2) it had ended attempts to establish contact with Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft.

"In consultation and agreement with Phobos-Grunt [Russian] mission controllers, ESA engineers will end ESTRACK ground station support today," the space agency said. "ESA ground teams remain available to assist the Phobos-Grunt mission if indicated by any change in the situation"

Robert PearlmanRIA Novosti (source)
Phobos-Grunt expected to fall to Earth Jan. 6-19

Russia's troubled Phobos-Grunt spacecraft will fall back to Earth in the period of January 6-19, 2012 Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) said on Friday, Dec. 16.

No more than 200 kilograms of the spacecraft's debris will reach the Earth's surface and the fuel is expected to totally burn up in the atmosphere, the space agency said.

"According to expert estimations, the time period of the spacecraft's falling to Earth will cover the period from January 6 to January 19, 2012... the location and the exact time will be known no earlier than a few days prior," Roscosmos said in a statement, published on its website.

Robert PearlmanRIA Novosti (source)
Russia's Phobos-Grunt to hit Earth on Jan. 15-16

Russia's troubled Phobos Grunt spacecraft is expected to fall back to Earth between Sunday (Jan. 15) and Monday (Jan. 16) morning, U.S. Strategic Command said on Friday.

Researchers from the U.S. said the debris would fall between 02:39 GMT on Jan. 15 and 07:39 GMT on Jan. 16 (8:39 p.m. CST Jan. 14 and 1:39 a.m. CST Jan. 16).

The Russian space agency Roscosmos said that Phobos Grunt would fall on the same dates into the Atlantic Ocean. Earlier in the day, Roscosmos said the spacecraft would plunge into the Indian Ocean. The agency said it revised its forecast due to Phobos Grunt's lowered orbit, altered solar activity and changes in the atmosphere.

Roscosmos said that about 20 to 30 pieces of debris weighing 200 kilograms (441 pounds) would hit Earth, while the toxic fuel would burn in the atmosphere at a height of about 100 kilometers (62 miles).

Robert PearlmancollectSPACE
Failed Russian Mars probe Phobos-Grunt falls back to Earth, drops debris in ocean

Russia's Phobos-Grunt probe, once destined to touch down on one of Mars' moons, made a far less impressive landing on Sunday (Jan. 15), breaking into pieces and falling into the Pacific Ocean.

"Fragments have crashed down in the Pacific Ocean," a Russian Defense Ministry official told RIA Novosti.

Robert PearlmanEuropean Space Agency release
Space debris experts confirm estimate for Phobos-Grunt reentry

Before the reentry of Russia's Phobos-Grunt Mars probe on 15 January, ESA established a final prediction for reentry of 17:45 GMT, referring to an altitude of 10 km. Within the expected uncertainties, the prediction has been largely confirmed by observations.

Refining the reentry estimates

Following the 15 January Phobos-Grunt reentry, the US Strategic Command confirmed a reentry time of 17:46 GMT, referring to an altitude of 80 km at 46°S and 87°W, near the South American coastline. This corresponds to a pass at 10 km altitude about seven minutes later — very close to ESA's prediction.

"While this was an uncontrolled reentry, the location of the potential impact area was largely over ocean, with a correspondingly low probability of any detrimental effects," said Prof. Heiner Klinkrad, Head of ESA's Space Debris Office in Darmstadt, Germany.

Orbital data furnished by European sources, including France and Germany, were also used to refine the reentry estimates. ESA communicated regular updates to European civil protection authorities in the days leading up to the reentry.

The US Strategic Command (US Stratcom) operates a network of radar and other sensors that also track such objects in orbit.

The effort was also part of a comprehensive reentry prediction campaign for Phobos-Grunt conducted by the Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee (IADC), a technical forum for the worldwide coordination of activities related to human-made and natural debris in space.

IADC is an inter-agency forum for the worldwide coordination of activities related to the issues of human-made and natural debris in space. Member agencies include ESA, NASA, European national agencies and the Russian, Chinese, Canadian, Japanese, Ukrainian and Indian space agencies.

See here for discussion of Russia's Phobos-Grunt sample return mission.

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