Feeds

Cosmic rays blamed for Phobos-Grunt fiasco

Space probe apparently not built to fly in space

A new approach to endpoint data protection

Russian space boffins have come up with a new reason to explain why duff Martian probe Phobos-Grunt fell out of the sky - cosmic rays.

The head of space agency Roscosmos said that an investigation into the short-lived spacecraft had discovered that radiation caused a glitch in the onboard computer system, state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

"Two components of the onboard computer system were spontaneously rebooted and it switched into a standby mode," Vladimir Popovkin said. "The most likely reason [for this] is the impact of heavy charged space particles."

Popovkin and other Russian space sources had previously hinted that the probe, which became stranded in Earth's orbit after its engines failed to fire, had been taken out by "foreign influences", whether intentionally or not.

One source even went so far as to speculate that radiation from a US radar stationed on the Marshall Islands was to blame, although other Russian boffins almost immediately dismissed the idea as "far-fetched".

However, despite having ruled out evil US ray-guns as the cause of Phobos-Grunt's failures, Popovkin was still foisting some of the blame outside of Russia by saying that defective microchips imported illegally from abroad might have been part of the problem.

Those involved in the Phobos-Grunt project appear to be scrambling for some external reason why the mission may have failed, particularly since their president practically promised that heads will roll over the whole thing.

But scientists don't seem to think this latest excuse is any better than the US-megawatt-radar one. A source in the space industry told RIA Novosti a few hours after Popovkin's announcement of the findings that the idea that Phobos-Grunt hadn't had any protection from cosmic radiation was "ridiculous".

"The spacecraft was supposed to fly into the hostile environment of outer space, I simply can't believe they didn't consider this, " he said (translated by Google Translate).

'Get your gas to Mars!'

Meanwhile, Popovkin has also said that if Russia can't get in on the European Space Agency's (ESA) ExoMars action, it would consider trying Phobos-Grunt 2.

"We are holding consultations with the ESA about Russia’s participation in the ExoMars project… If no deal is reached, we will repeat the attempt [to launch a Phobos mission],” the Roscosmos chief said.

The ExoMars mission aims to send an orbital spacecraft, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, to Mars in 2016, followed by an ExoMars Rover two years later. The project started out as a joint venture between ESA and NASA, but the Americans later said they were ending their participation in the project and would no longer provide the Atlas rocket to launch the orbiter.

With NASA no longer able to afford the rocket and ESA lacking the funds even for the mission, not to mind a rocket, Roscosmos could solve the tetchy propulsion problem by providing one of its Proton launchers to get the craft going.

Roscosmos and ESA are due to discuss the possibilities for Russia's full membership in the ExoMars mission this month. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?