Phobos-Grunt

This article originally appeared on my blog http://lifeofpradeep.wordpress.com. I recovered the post using Wayback Machine.

Phobos-Grunt was to launch at the very early hours in the morning in India and hence I did not look up the time before the launch.

The first reminder on the upcoming launch came from Srinivas Laxman whom I rang up on Sunday. After exchanging notes on the recent visit of Yuri Gagarin’s daughter to Mumbai and the upcoming unveiling of the Gagarin bust at the Nehru Planetarium, Mumbai. Talk inevitably turned to the two Mars missions – the Mars Science Laboratory and Phobos-Grunt (I like the way Russians name their spacecraft!).  We recollected the link between Chandrayaan-II and Phobos-Grunt but were not too enthused by the early morning launch hour. Both share similar lander design and Phobos-Grunt was sort of a dry run for the Chandrayaan-II lander.

Early morning as I headed to work, Twitter was flooded with news about problems with Phobos-Grunt. The Phobos-Grunt was launched into its first orbit by the Russian Zenit rocket. Apparently an orbit boost maneuver which was to be performed was not performed. This was spotted by veteran Satellite watcher, Ted Molzcan who wrote about it. Russia confirmed that this was the case today morning after a lot of speculation on Twitter. First, it was predicted that they had 3 days to fix the problems on the spacecraft. As the day progressed, news came in that data indicated that the batteries on-board were recharging and hence they had about a 2 week period to be “saved”.  Interestingly, the story put out by ROSCOSMOS chief say that they expected this mission scenario during the planning stage and have a fix planned out.

Emily Lakdawala updated via Twitter and her Planetary Society blog while Anatoly Zak provided a more complete picture on his website. Emily’s blog provides a better picture of the confusion that prevailed among folks after there was no word from Russia’s space agency, ROSCOSMOS. If you, like me, are interested in the technical nitty gritties, do head on over to the discussions on NASASpaceflight.com Forums where this event is being discussed live with updates and translations.

This has been an interesting story to follow. It brings out the need for more information and the work of amateurs in the contribution – to help in such scenarios even while such installations such as the Deep Space Network’s of the various space agencies of the world exists. It is an interesting world that we live in.