Feeds

Russian Mars probe heads into space WITHOUT ENGINES

Boffins baffled by rising orbit of Phobos-Grunt

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Boffins from the Russian space agency are baffled by the odd behaviour of the Phobos-Grunt probe, which seems to be flying all on its own without the aid of its non-firing engines.

The spacecraft, originally meant for a mission to Martian moon Phobos, has been stuck in an Earth orbit for most of this month after two engine bursts to send it on its way failed to happen.

However, instead of falling a little every time it circles the planet, the probe is rising in its orbit, and Roscosmos isn't sure why.

“Unfortunately, we still don’t have any telemetric information from the spacecraft so we don’t understand what’s going on,” Vitaly Davydov, deputy head of the space agency told state news agency RIA Novosti.

The Russian space boffins lost contact with the craft over two weeks ago.

“The most interesting part is that Phobos-Grunt is on an oriented flight course but, according to our data, something unusual is happening with it.”

He theorised that the craft's control system might still be functional even though it never set out for the Red Planet. Another possibility is that Phobos-Grunt is losing fuel, causing its orbit to rise.

However, other Russian space experts have suggested that the probe may in fact be flying. The aerodynamic resistance of the craft's solar panels could be turning them into "wings", pushing the ship up.

Whatever the reason, the rising orbit could extend the time Phobos-Grunt manages to stay in its holding pattern until as late as mid-March.

The window of opportunity to contact the probe and get the engines firing so it could fulfil its mission to Mars and Phobos closed yesterday.

The craft can no longer make the trip to the surface of the Martian moon to collect samples, but if Russian engineers can establish contact with the craft, a feat they have been attempting to no avail since it was lost, they could still use it.

Davydov said Roscosmos was "having a good think" about what to do with the probe.

“If it becomes clear that everything has failed and the insurance issue is settled… we will decide what to do next,” he said.

“We have already said that we are planning to make the Moon our next step. It would be reasonable to focus on the Moon,” he added. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.