ESA’s attempt to raise orbit of Phobos-Grunt probe fails

Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft has been plagued with problems ever since its launch on November 8. The probe was intended to reach low-earth orbit and fire off its thrusters to kick off its journey towards Mars shortly after, but for unknown reasons the thrusters did not fire.

The European Space Agency was able to regain communication with the probe after a week of silence following its launch, and for a moment hopes were raised that the Phobos-Grunt program could be salvaged. Unfortunately, it looks like progress has come to a halt.

Spaceflight Now reports that the ESA attempted to transmit signals to the Phobos-Grunt probe to raise its altitude, but the craft didn’t respond and currently remains in low-altitude orbit roughly 200 miles above the Earth.

Things may be looking grim for the Phobos-Grunt Mars program, but Russia’s space agency isn’t ready to give up just yet. Russia reportedly requested more orbit-lifting commands to be transmitted late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning. The results of that should be available later today.

The Phobos-Grunt craft is also carrying along China’s very first interplanetary probe, Yinghuo 1. The mission was to drop the probe off by Mars, where it would orbit the red planet, while Phobos-Grunt readied up to land on Mars’ largest moon, Phobos.

Source: Spaceflight Now

[Image credit: AP/Russian Roscosmoc space agency, HO]