BAIKONUR, November 9 (Itar-Tass) — Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft launched from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a Zenit-2SB rocket failed to reach a designated flying trajectory and remained on a support orbit, the head of the federal space agency, Vladimir Popovkin, said on Wednesday.
“The spacecraft got on for contact at once,” he said. “We searched it, its sustainer engine failed to work. There was neither first nor second ignition. Russia’s space control systems and similar systems of the United States searched the spacecraft on the orbit. Its fuel tanks have not been thrown off.”
After the separation from Zenit-2SB, the spacecraft was flying in a low Earth orbit and then after two ignitions of the sustainer engine it should have fired to the designated trajectory to reach Mars.
The spacecraft that should take rock and dust samples from the Martian moon Phobos and bring them back to Earth for study “entered a support orbit, the fuel has not been spent and we have three days for retargeting the program,” he said.
“The contingency situation emerged, but it is the operational situation. We foresaw it,” Popovkin said. “Now we are studying the telemetry.”
He supposed that the reason of the contingency situation is “that the flight control system failed to switch from the sun to computing sensors.”
“We will study the telemetry and during the day will inform on the situation,” Popovkin said.