Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Quick Phobos/Grunt Update 3

A Ray of Hope
All's been pretty quiet on the Phobos/Grunt front, however there's still a slim chance that controllers may regain control of the spacecraft.

@SPACEFLIGHT101 reports:
Over the past week, Russian Ground Stations continued daily attempts to restore contact with the Phobos-Grunt Spacecraft and try to command its engine to start boosting it to a higher orbit. All attempts have failed and the spacecraft continues is steady path that will eventually lead it to a destructive re-entry should further attempts fail as well.

Today, ESA's Maspalomas Station has also made new attempts to make contact with Phobos-Grunt after standing down over the weekend and on Monday. After the attempts, PG’s Orbit remained unchanged, there was no engine burn. The current orbit of the stranded spacecraft is 283 by 201 Kilometers with a period of 89 Minutes.

One last spark of hope remains however: Over a period starting today at 17:00 UTC and ending tomorrow at 23:00, Phobos-Grunt will have constant sun exposure during all portions of its orbit around Earth. Should the vehicle be in working condition and sunpointing, the odds to make contact with it are much higher because PG won’t switch back and forth between safe mode in darkness and operational or contingency mode in daylight. However, it is unknown wether 1) the spacecraft is still alive and 2) it is maintaining attitude. Russian Officials have indicated that Mission Controllers do not know if the vehicle is stable.

Satellite observers have seen fair indications of tumbling earlier in December, but there are no new sighting updates from more recent observations. Mission Controllers will try to use this phase of optimized conditions and make contact attempts via two Ground Stations in Russia and Kazakhstan. It is also expected that ESA will make further attemtps to send commands to the Spacecraft via Maspalomas and/or Perth.Still, the odds of getting the spacecraft out of Low Earth Orbit remain very slim at this point in the mission."

According to Russian Sources, attempts to communicate with the spacecraft will continue on a daily basis until re-entry. Russian Officials and personnel of NPO Lavochkin, the Spacecraft Designer, have declared the mission a failure and do not see any chance of it accomplishing any of its objectives. Teams concerned with the Entry Process and any tasks associated with Entry Response have been formed. Currently, the spacecraft is expected to re-enter on January 10, 2012 +/- 5 Days.

More when I get it, Phobos/GruntWatch keeping eyes and ears open...

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