Feeds

Falklands, Cardiff lie beneath track of rogue Phobos-Grunt

'Debris will probably hit remote unpopulated area' - UKSA

High performance access to file storage

The UK space agency has warned that Russia and Kazakhstan will be responsible for any damage resulting from the probe Phobos-Grunt plummeting to Earth, and outlined in detail those locations at risk: that is, most of the inhabited world apart from remote northern and southern regions.

Space boffins from Roscosmos and the European Space Agency are in the process of trying to rescue the craft, which made it into orbit on November 9 but then failed to set off on its mission to Mars and the Martian moon Phobos.

If their attempts to restart her engines fail, Phobos-Grunt and attached bits and pieces will eventually lose altitude and drop out of orbit towards the surface of the planet.

Any damage from the hurtling debris would be the responsibility of Russia as the launching state, and possibly Kazakhstan as well since the craft took off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, according to international treaties, the UK space agency said.

However, neither Ukraine, which provided the rocket, nor China, which has a satellite orbiter (Yinghou-1) hitching a ride with the probe, would be liable.

The agency also said that Phobos-Grunt's orbital inclination is taking it in a track over the Earth extends from 51.4 degrees N - the line of latitude that runs approximately from Cardiff to London - and 51.4 degrees S, as far as the Falklands Islands. Or in other words, the debris could come down anywhere between those two lines.

However, it's not quite time to flee to Scotland, or indeed the Midlands, yet.

The ESA has managed contact with the probe and now so has the Baikonur cosmodrome as well.

Yesterday, the ESA got telemetry data from the craft that might have told it why the engines failed to fire to send Phobos-Grunt towards Mars, but it was unable to decode it.

Today, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti is reporting that Baikonur also received the telemetry data and this time the message was clear.

The data showed that the radio equipment in Phobos-Grunt was operational and it was exchanging information with the main flight computer and the onboard control system.

If the boffins can figure out what went wrong with the control system and fix it, the probe could still be sent on a mission to an asteroid or Earth's Moon, or even just brought in to land in a controlled descent instead of a fiery ball.

However, if the experts can't regain control, the chances of any debris from the craft's re-entry damaging anything on Earth is slim.

Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin has already assured the public that the 7.5 metric tons of fuel onboard the ship will ensure that it gets vaporised on re-entry, leaving little to fall down.

Even if there were any scraps left, there's a much greater chance of them dropping harmlessly into the sea or a remote unpopulated area. ®

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'
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
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
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.