Feeds

Foreign sabotage suspected in Phobos-Grunt meltdown

Russian space chief doesn't want to point any fingers, but...

Security for virtualized datacentres

The head of the Russian space agency has hinted that foreign sabotage might be to blame for the malfunction of the country's Martian space probe, Phobos-Grunt.

Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin told Russian newspaper Izvestia (in Russian, translation by Google Translate) that he had no complete explanation for the frequent failures of the agency's space projects, but he suggested Russia might not be entirely to blame.

"Today there is no clarity, why the propulsion unit onboard Phobos-Grunt failed to start," he said.

"It is also unclear, why our satellites often have failures at the time when they fly out of range [of Russian mission control] where we don't see the vehicle and do not receive telemetry from it. I don’t want to make any accusations, but today there is powerful equipment to influence spacecrafts, and the possibility of their use should not be ruled out,” he added.

Specifically in the case of Phobos-Grunt, Popovkin admitted that Roscosmos had pushed ahead with the project even though boffins at the agency knew there were risks.

He claimed that the lifespan of some of the parts used to build the probe, the construction of which began in 1999, were coming near to their expiration date. If Russia hadn't managed to launch the craft last year, it would have lost its five billion ruble ($159m) investment anyway.

"Phobos-Grunt was developed and built under conditions of limited funding, which predetermined risky technical decisions and made the whole mission problematic," Popovkin said.

“We became hostages of these decisions, since we had been bound by agreements with the European Space Agency (ESA), whose instruments were onboard, and to our Chinese colleagues as we undertook the task of delivering their satellite to Mars onboard Phobos-Grunt."

Phobos-Grunt was an ambitious project even with a big budget, but it never really got started. The probe was made to fly to Mars, orbit the planet for a few months and then land on the Martian moon Phobos to collect soil samples. Those samples were also supposed to make it all the way back to Earth in a return vehicle due in 2014.

Instead, after reaching Earth's orbit in early November, the craft's engines failed to fire and the duff probe was left to uselessly circle our home world.

Repeated attempts to contact Phobos-Grunt and get it back on some sort of track were ultimately useless, and the remains of the project are expected to rain down on our planet sometime around 15 January, according to the latest Russian estimates. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
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?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.