MOSCOW, February 1 (Itar-Tass) —— A new spacecraft with the preliminary name Phobos-Grunt-2, which is similar to the spacecraft that broke down last November, is planned to launch to the Martian satellite in 2018, Director of the Institute of Space Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences Academician Lev Zeleny told a press conference on Wednesday.
The Russian Academy of Sciences made an initiative to launch this spacecraft in 2018 for several reasons, he said. First, the shortest distance between two planets will be observed in 2018. Meanwhile, according to forecasts of specialists, the capacities of the domestic industry will improve dramatically. The mission to the natural satellite of the Red Planet – Phobos is expected to be simplified.
The simplification will conclude “in keeping the control system of the Fregat upper stage, which was distinguished as very reliable (the control system was installed onboard the first Phobos-Grunt interplanetary station). Meanwhile, the spaceship will have simpler rovers to explore the Moon that will be tested in the lunar exploration projects. Some equipment for the Martian exploration that was installed onboard the first Phobos-Grunt spaceship can be installed on spaceships of the European Space Agency that will make the second mission to the Martian satellite simpler and cheaper, Zeleny noted.
The second Phobos-Grunt spaceship will cost “a little more than 50% of previous costs,” because the infrastructure was already created for the first spaceship, Zeleny pointed out. The academician did not disclose the exact cost of the project. “I am not an economist, and a billion roubles today is not a billion roubles tomorrow,” he elaborated.
The specialists estimated that the crashed Phobos-Grunt interplanetary station cost five billion roubles.
“We realized that Phobos-Grunt is not ready for the flight (in 2011), but it was impossible to raise the question to postpone it,” Zeleny acknowledged. “The spaceship could not have reached Mars in 2013, all onboard systems will be outdated by 2016,” he said.
Zeleny elaborated why the Russian Academy of Sciences offers to launch the second interplanetary station to Phobos not earlier than in 2018. The next window for the launch will open in 2013, but it there will be a big distance between the Earth and the Mars, the spaceship can fail to reach the planet, meanwhile, two years “is not enough time to repeat such project.” In 2016 a good window will open, but lunar projects are scheduled for this year, therefore, the state authorities and the production industries will not have enough resources and funds to implement several major missions, Zeleny believes.