Feeds

Cosmic rays blamed for Phobos-Grunt fiasco

Space probe apparently not built to fly in space

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Ex-Soviet engines fingered after Antares ROCKET launch BLAST
Speculation rife, but Orbital claims it's too early to tell
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
NASA: Spacecraft crash site FOUND ON MOON RIM
'What fun!' exlaims NASA boffin who found the LADEE
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
OK Google, do I have CANCER?
Company talks up pill that would spot developing tumors
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
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.
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.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.