Louis D. FriedmanJan 31, 2012

Official Phobos-Grunt Failure Report Released

Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency, has released its official report concerning the failure of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which fell back to Earth from orbit on January 15 after failing to ignite the engines that were to take it to the largest Martian moon.

News agencies are reporting that the investigating commission blames the failure on space radiation from charged particles, which damaged poor-quality "imported" electronic chips. This seems an unlikely cause and, at best, an oversimplification. Until we read a translation of the actual report, we can't be sure what it actually says.

As Principal Investigator for the Phobos LIFE capsule and an experimenter on the mission, I have requested a copy of the Roscosmos report to analyze. When I better understand what is known and why the spacecraft failed to start its engines to leave Earth orbit, I will report back to Planetary Society Members, who supported our LIFE experiment with their donations.

Phobos-Grunt imaged in orbit
Phobos-Grunt imaged in orbit Ralf Vandebergh is an amateur astronomer who specializes in imaging spacecraft. He took several photos of the wayward Phobos-Grunt, stuck in low-Earth orbit. Ralf Vandebergh

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