Fifth Generation Mars
Phobos-Grunt Program Launch Schedule Two Year Slipto October 2011 Confirmed as Expected
The Phobos-Grunt international cooperative program spacecraft with China’s Yinghuo-1 (YH-1) piggyback smaller orbiter first Mars exploration spacecraft is planned to fly to Mars starting in October 2011 with the intent of releasing the YH-1 Chinese spacecraft in mars orbit for it's autonomous mission.The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft will continue on to explore the surface of the Mars moon Phobos to ultimately land on phobus and then returning samples of the moon's soil to Earth.The full mission duration is expected to last 330 days.
The Phobos-Grunt international cooperative program spacecraft with the China’s Yinghuo-1 (YH-1) orbiter spacecaft intended to fly to Mars starting in October 2009 will in all probability be delayed until the next Mars window in October 2011 because the on board flight control systems are not mature or perfected enough to commit to such a long duration mission with any hope of reliability for such an expensive multi year mission with China and the rest of the participants. It is being characterized as not robust enough to survive the rigors of the mission without more rigorous testing.The spacecraft is still undergoing systems integration testing which will not be completed in time for the launch window. It will afford everybody a breather to review all systems integration with the spacecraft and booster as well as all programming to eliminate possible problems down the road. The same personnel involved in this program will also be involved in the follow up programs forcing a full Mars window of two year slip in the program. This could also affect the timing of the Luna-Glob program planning that has already slipped one year to 2012. It in fact appears that the launch window has now slipped beyond the proper launch alignment window for this launch to happen on time and further rushing will almost certainly cause problems thus the apparent high probability of a two year program delay is expected as has been rumored for months.
Russia’s fifth generation Mars probe is expected to be launched in October 2009 as a part of an international Mars exploration effort with China providing a piggyback sub satellite Yinghou-1 (meaning light from firefly) to be released in Mars orbit in 2010 after a flight duration of 10 months. The 1.5 billion Ruble ($64.4 million) Phobos-Grunt spacecraft built by the veteran mars spacecraft design bureau Lavochkin Research and Production Association is different from its Mars -96 predecessor and is designed to be launched on the Zenit-SL3B booster of the Ukraine. It was originally designed to be launched by the Soyuz-2/Fregat booster but with the addition of the Chinese piggyback sub satellite Yinghou-1 it was switched to the Zenit-3SLB for launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The Yinghou-1 Chinese probe will conduct solar wind studies as well as magnetic fields and general mission environment studies. The spacecraft will carry two three panel solar arrays for power production but will be electrically powered by the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft while in transit to mars and it has limited imaging capability. Yinghou-1 was delivered to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in early August 2009. It weighs in at 115 kilograms and measures 75 cm long by 75 cm wide and 60 cm high.
After a ten month transit to Mars the spacecraft will enter Mars orbit with the final intent to recover soil samples from Phobos to return to earth. In addition to a detailed study of Phobos one of the two moons of Mars it is planned to carry out studies of the surface of Mars looking for future landing sites for a mars unmanned Lander, rover spacecraft combination for a future planned missions. The actual scientific missions of the phobos-Grunt spacecraft besides landing on Phobos and acquiring soil samples from it may be able to identify the actual building block elements that make up what created the solar system without the contamination of planetary environmental processes. Again this spacecraft is equipped to study the interplanetary space medium while in transit to Mars as well as do detailed study of the Phobos soils samples obtained before return to earth. Prior to doing the detailed exploration of Phobos it is planned for the orbiter to study Mars in detail along with acquiring greater information about its two moons and their orbital dynamics. Though the ASR (automatic Sample Return) portion of the Phobos-Grunt probe will launch itself back to earth with its samples the remaining spacecraft is expected to continue its mission for about a year reporting on Phobos as well as Mars.
It is planned for the Phobos-Grunt second spacecraft to deposit a rover explorer on the surface of Mars. Ultimately Lavochkin Research and Production Association may have in its mid is to retrieving the first soil sample from Mars returned to earth as a follow up to this effort provided the economics of the Russian government permit this to be accomplished and if this mission is successful.
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