Feeds

Cosmic rays blamed for Phobos-Grunt fiasco

Space probe apparently not built to fly in space

High performance access to file storage

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. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
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.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
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.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.