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Emily LakdawallaOctober 18, 2011

Phobos-Grunt unpacked! With Yinghuo-1 and LIFE!

I know I just posted about Phobos-Grunt on Friday, but there are lots of new pictures from Baikonur Cosmodrome (Russia's main launch facility in Kazakhstan) showing Phobos-Grunt being removed from its shipping crate and tipped upright in preparation for its launch in early November. I've posted a snapshot of the web page below. Take a look! Stacked inside a cage of sorts at the base of Phobos-Grunt is the Yinghuo-1 orbiter -- you can see its radio antenna (whose dish shape is sliced along two sides making a sort of rectangular dish) and its square solar panels folded against its sides.

Also look for the gold-wrapped tube that runs from the base of the Phobos lander, all the way up to its top, where it makes two right-angled bends and connects to the sample return capsule. The conical sample return capsule is also gold-wrapped and embedded nose-down in the sample return spacecraft's solar panel. Inside that sample return capsule is the Planetary Society's Phobos LIFE canister-- it's been in there for two years, since just before the originally planned 2009 launch, waiting patiently to get its lift to Mars.

Photo album of Phobos-Grunt being un-crated

Roscosmos

Photo album of Phobos-Grunt being un-crated
From the Roscosmos website, a photo album of the Phobos-Grunt sample return mission spacecraft being removed from its crate and tipped upright in preparation for final integration onto its launch vehicle. The photos were posted here on October 18, 2011.

I'm posting more images from Phobos-Grunt than I am from Curiosity's similar launch preparations because I figure that the Curiosity images are easier to get to and on a site whose language my blog readers can read without assistance. The same isn't true for Phobos-Grunt and Yingho-1 -- so I'll keep posting updates as I get them!

Since I mention Curiosity, though, I did check the Kennedy Media Archive, and the latest images (a week old now) show the cruise stage being stacked on the spacecraft. The cruise stage is the "space" part of the spacecraft -- it contains the brains, instruments, maneuvering rockets, and solar panels needed to care for the spacecraft and steer it along its seven-month flight to Mars. It also has a cooling system that'll convey heat from inside the aeroshell, which the radioactively heating plutonium power supply of the rover will be making very toasty, out to space. Peek underneath and you can still see the rover's wheels. The last remaining part to come on this stack is the heat shield, the blunt nose of the spacecraft covered with space-shuttle ceramic tiles that'll protect the rover for the hot part of its descent through Mars' atmosphere. Once that's on, they can move the spacecraft to the rocket, enclose it in the clamshell fairing, and they'll be ready to launch!

Read more: Phobos and Shuttle LIFE, Planetary Society Projects, mission status, Phobos-Grunt and Yinghuo-1

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Emily Lakdawalla

Senior Editor and Planetary Evangelist for The Planetary Society
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