Feeds

Cosmic rays blamed for Phobos-Grunt fiasco

Space probe apparently not built to fly in space

The essential guide to IT transformation

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. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9000 beer tokens - and counting
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
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.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
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?