Phobos-Grunt probe reentry scheduled for January 15


The spokesman of Russia’s military space forces told Russian news agencies today that stranded Phobos-Grunt could fall to Earth on Jan. 15. About 30 fragments weighing up to 200 kilograms (440 pounds) are expected to fall to Earth. The $165-million Phobos-Grunt mission launched on Nov. 9, 2011, never left Earth orbit.

As of Wednesday morning, the fragments of Phobos-Grunt are expected to fall January 15, 2012. The final date could change due to external factors.” Russia’s military space forces spokesman Alexei Zolotukhin

The military space forces’ monitoring center had earlier predicted in November that the probe, which is gradually descending and slowing down, would fall to Earth in January or February.  The probe is now circling at an altitude of between 184 kilometers (114 miles) and 224 kilometers (139 miles) above Earth. The Russian space agency said in December that it expected the 13.5-tonne probe to fall to Earth between Jan. 6 and 19, but that it would only be possible to predict the exact time and place a few days in advance.

About 30 fragments weighing around 200 kilograms (440 pounds) were expected to fall to Earth, with the spacecraft’s highly toxic fuel burning up on entering the Earth’s atmosphere. The Phobos-Grunt mission aimed to revive Russia’s interplanetary program, which has not seen a successful mission since the fall of the Soviet Union, and prepare the way for a manned mission to Mars. Russia has experienced a series of serious space failures in the past year. An unmanned Progress supply ship bound for the International Space Station crashed into Siberia in August last year after its launch by a Soyuz rocket, forcing the rockets’ temporary grounding. Russia also lost three navigation satellites, an advanced military satellite and a telecommunications satellite. In the latest setback, a fragment of a Russian communications satellite crashed into a Siberian village in December after it failed to reach orbit due to the failure of its Soyuz rocket. (Discovery)Phobos-Grunt is visible to the naked eye as a bright star if it happens to pass overhead.

Astronomer Thierry Legault, an expert in nabbing incredible images of objects in orbit observe Phobos-Grunt probe from France and made the video of it (above). Phobos-Grunt is making an uncontrolled re-entry (like UARS and ROSAT missions) but slill we can’t be sure where it will fall. The actual location of re-entry won’t be known until the moment it comes down; it’s moving at several kilometers every second, so being off by a few minutes in the time means being off by thousands of kilometers in the location!  There are a lot of variables involved including the orientation of the satellite, solar activity and so on. (Bad Astronomy)

You can track Phobos-Grunt probe if you visit this sites:  Heavens-Above.com /  Sky&Telescope Satellite Tracker / Satellite Flybys /Real Time Satellite tracking

 Ground Track Plot

Date Mag Starts Max. altitude Ends
Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az. Time Alt. Az.
8 Jan 3.9 20:12:55 10 W 20:14:00 14 NW 20:14:19 14 NW
9 Jan 3.9 19:45:36 10 W 19:46:44 15 NW 19:47:52 10 NNW
10 Jan 3.4 06:45:31 10 N 06:47:03 21 NE 06:48:34 10 ESE
10 Jan 3.7 19:17:29 10 W 19:18:44 16 NW 19:19:58 10 N
11 Jan 3.6 06:17:17 10 N 06:18:41 19 NE 06:20:05 10 ESE
12 Jan 4.2 05:50:01 15 ENE 05:50:01 15 ENE 05:50:48 10 E

Featured image credit: Roscosmos

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