Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mars Probe is Latest Russian Glitch

Aviation Week reports that yet another Russian launch has failed — for now.

A propulsion system glitch plaguing an ambitious Russian Mars sample-return mission has left the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft circling in low Earth orbit.

Launched Nov. 9 atop a Russian Zenit-2SB from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Phobos-Grunt was successfully delivered to a parking orbit from which its onboard engines were expected to raise it to a hyperbolic escape orbit.

Following separation from the rocket, initial communications with the spacecraft indicated Phobos-Grunt was operating normally.

During orbital entry, however, “an emergency situation occurred” while the spacecraft moved out of radio contact with ground controllers, according to a statement posted on the Roscosmos web site.

Since that time, Roscosmos engineers have been working against the clock to reenable the main engines.

“Adjusted analysis of the orbital parameters and energy supply on board showed that these commands must be issued within two weeks,” the statement says.

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