A European Space Agency antenna in Australia has detected a radio signal from Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, the first contract from the Mars-bound spacecraft since it was stranded in Earth orbit two weeks ago. A brief statement on the ESA web site stated that its tracking station near Perth, Australia, detected a signal from the spacecraft at about 3:25 pm EST (2025 GMT) Tuesday. According to reports the station’s 15-meter antenna received a radio signal, but “no meaningful telemetry”.
Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft remains stuck in low Earth orbit and ground teams have until early December to try to return it to operations before declaring the mission lost.
Pessimism continues to surround the Russian Fobos-Grunt mission. No communication has been established as of Sunday evening.
The latest orbital parameter comments from Ted Molczan: “USSTRATCOM has issued three new TLEs since my comments yesterday on the payload’s rate of decay. They confirm that the apparent small increase in orbital altitude is real, and apparently it is continuing.”
There are no reports that communication or control has been established with the Russian spacecraft.
There was no success overnight establishing communication with the Russian spacecraft. Ted Molczan reports on the latest orbital parameters of the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft – slight changes in the orbit might suggest venting or maneuvering.
From NasaSpaceFlight Forum from the Russian Space Forum: “Just a short report. [right after the launch] we’ve got telemetry from the 2nd stage of Zenit launcher, it shows normal separation. After the first loop the one and only [SC] telemetry session has been received, it showed deployment of the solar arrays, constant solar orientation and normal work of all systems. After the second loop we found the SC on the initial orbit, it was silent. No telemetry since that. Previous night at Baikonur there were failed attempts to restart the onboard computer. This attempts will be repeated this night.”
Russian engineers apparently failed to communicate with the Fobos-Grunt spacecraft on Wednesday as it passed over the Baikonur site. Roscosmos officials have stated they have two weeks to fix the problem before the spacecraft orbit decays and reenters the atmosphere. They report that the solar panels deployed.
The Russian mission to Phobos failed to ignite the first of two burns to send the probe on the way to Mars. The spacecraft is in safe mode, and Russian space scientists have approximately three days to re-establish communication and upload new computer instructions to resume the mission before the batteries run out.