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back to article Cosmic rays blamed for Phobos-Grunt fiasco

Russian space boffins have come up with a new reason to explain why duff Martian probe Phobos-Grunt fell out of the sky - cosmic rays. The head of space agency Roscosmos said that an investigation into the short-lived spacecraft had discovered that radiation caused a glitch in the onboard computer system, state news agency RIA …

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Bronze badge
Windows

"...were spontaneously rebooted and it switched into a standby mode"

Standby mode??

Isn't that like "Suicide mode"?

Bit like when some people have an allergy to nuts, so the immune system fixes the problem by killing the person.

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Mushroom

ah, funny

Until I glanced across at my epipens and..... no, still funny

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Joke

I reckon

the probe extended one of the camera lenses, saw its own nameplate and suicided out of embarassment.....

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This is actually plausible...

Counterfeit electronic components are a real problem. If someone in the supply chain decided to make a quick buck by re-marking a bunch of consumer grade components as their radiation hardened equivalents, this is the kind of failure you could expect.

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FAIL

what?

What are you talking about? Corruption in Russian business dealings? All lies.

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Why did two of the NASA manned ships explode? Was any corruption to be blamed? There is stupidity and inertia in every system even in Roscosmos and NASA. Corruption of he mind. The accident in question was not that tragic as when many valuable lives were lost.

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Just to clarify...

I am actually supporting Popovkin's position here. Counterfeit components are a problem for the _whole_ aerospace industry, not just in Russia. The shuttle accidents are obviously a different matter, but there are documented cases of counterfeit parts ending up in U.S. military kit - and they probably police their supply chain more rigorously than anyone else out there.

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Black Helicopters

not just aerospace

When I worked at a major telecoms equipment maker they had to slap one of their suppliers for sending them fake motorola cpus

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Trollface

Russia hasn't had much luck with Mars - they should stick to Venus. They do quite well there and that way we avoid them knocking heads with the Yanks :)

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Anonymous Coward

Cosmic Rays?

Somebody found the BOFH excuse server?

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Anonymous Coward

Great analysis by James Oberg

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2016/1

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+1

Good article - thanks!

I'm puzzled that there's been no mention of a backup "grunt" - I thought it was reasonable common to maintain a earthbound backup version of the flying hardware so that you can properly tests before it flies and debug during the voyage.

Offhand I'd inclined to suspect counterfeit components - remarking commercial grade to mil grade has the potential to make a lot of money and it's very hard to prove until after the event ... having at one time personally kissed $10k away due to counterfeit SMT chips in a build.

Good science will answer the question - assuming that anyone really wants to know the answer.

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Thumb Up

Quite possibly...

The best sub-head ever!

Reminds of Men Behaving Badly.

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Happy

"foreign influences" - "cosmic rays"

So really, really, really foreign, then?

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Windows

Can't remember the film's name..

(Apocalypse now? -Bruce Willis?)

"American? Russian? All parts made in Taiwan !!" as the guy hits the thing, and it starts working again..

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I think it was called The Rock That Wouldn't Quit

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film was Armageddon

The guy was a russian

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Facepalm

First it was foreign sabotage, now, in the absence of any evidence to support that, its cosmic rays. Anything other than just admitting "we kinda screwed up and we can't say how".

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Bronze badge

Right, they are trying to save their ars now... their explanation should not be completely ruled out though. It is better to lose an automatic ship than a manned one. The Roscosmos' dear colleagues have managed to squander many billions of dollars on the Space Shuttle program whilest losing two spacecrafts with much more valuable human lives. (There was some sabotage too). They turned back to the Russians, 'cause the latter have better and safer rockets.

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Proof

Post proof that the shuttles were sabotaged or it didn't happen and your tinfoil-hattedness invalidates the rest of your post.

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Facepalm

It'll probably turn out to be a software bug

Rushed code and not enough testing due to an enviroment where no one wants to cause any delays to the launch date - national pride at stake etc etc.

At least , thats my guess. But I find this explanation VERY hard to believe. It just reads like another "it wasn't our fault!" excuse.

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Anonymous Coward

I'd agree ...

Either a (man-made) software fault or some totally off-the-shelf electronic component going "pop". That being far more likely than a stray cosmic ray flipping a bit in a register or whatever.

Planes have crashed in the past because a ten-cent bulb (less likely to happen with an LED) failed and didn't light up to tell the pilot the wheels weren't locked or whatever. Now you would get a voice announcement as well.

Cosmic rays certainly *can* cause failure in electronics but they are quite well screened and hardened in satellites and probes and always have been. Look at Voyager: even after decades in freezing space it still works and that using quite basic electronics -- but wrapped up really well.

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re: software bug

"Rushed code and not enough testing due to an enviroment where no one wants to cause any delays to the launch date - national pride at stake etc etc..."

I don't have the time -- or, admittedly, the motivation -- to go off scouring astronautix.com for each individual example, but iirc, Soviet/Russian spaceflight history is rife with instances of massive catastrophic failures caused by rushed, buggy on-board computer code and hardware components being rushed through development and testing, owing to engineers' and programmers' fears of putting the project behind schedule. Soyuz I is one of the more infamous examples.

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Silver badge
Alien

Aliens ate my homework!

(title says it all)

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Happy

Great Cover Story

feeding my conspiracy thoery.

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Coat

New Product....

... Tin Foil Hats for Satellites!!!

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Happy

Phobos-Grunt--the mission continues....

The mission now being to rescue various Russian asses from the sling they are getting put into!!!

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Devil

On Dasher, On Dancer..

On Phobos On Grunt.

On Popovkin On Putin

We're on to your stunt. :-)

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Radiation from satellite debris...

Did someone buy a BOFH Excuse Calendar ?

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In Russia

computers reboot you.

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Mars 6 and Mars 7 - same problem

Both probes were effectively dead on arrival at Mars because of radiation damage to their microprocessors. Mars 6 deployed its lander but it died before it could reach the Martian surface - some data about the atmosphere's composition was returned however. Mars 7 ejected its lander too early for the same reason, both the lander and the orbital module went into orbit around the Sun.

What's shocking is that this happened in 1973.

In 1988 and 1989 respectively, the two Fobos probes were lost because of software issues.

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