Feeds

Russian Mars probe heads into space WITHOUT ENGINES

Boffins baffled by rising orbit of Phobos-Grunt

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.