Space agency postpones Phobos contact until Monday

The European Space Agency (ESA) put off attempting to contact the stranded Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft until Monday, the head of the ESA office in Moscow said on Friday.

Rene Pichel was speaking about Phobos-Grunt that became stuck at a low-Earth orbit due to engine failure that followed its launch on November 9.

Pichel said the ESA’s station in Perth, Australia, which had contacted Phobos on Thursday, had been focusing on Phobos-Grunt since and now had a backlog that they will have to catch up with over the weekend.

Russians could not decipher the information from the ESA’s Australian station on Thursday but later received telemetry from the Russian station in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The telemetry showed that the radio equipment in Phobos was in operational mode and was exchanging information with the main flight computer and the onboard control system.

Observations from Earth have indicated that the orbit of Phobos-Grunt had become more stable, ESA said on Friday.

“This could mean that the spacecraft’s attitude, or orientation, is also now stable, which could help in regaining contact because we’d be able to predict where its two antennas are pointing,” said Manfred Warhaut, ESA’s Head of Mission Operations at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Germany.

“The team here at ESOC will do their utmost to assist the Russians in investigating the situation,” he added.


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