ESA station keeps contact with Russian Mars mission Phobos-Grunt
Tracking station control room at ESA's Space Operations Centre
24 November 2011
the first successful contact on Tuesday, ESA's tracking station in
Australia again established two-way communication with Russia's
Phobos–Grunt spacecraft on 23 November. The data received from the
spacecraft have been sent to the Russian mission control centre for
ESA's 15 m-diameter antenna at Perth,
Australia, was again used to contact Russia's Phobos–Grunt spacecraft
during the night of 23–24 November, with a total of five communication
passes available between 20:19 and 04:08 GMT.
Teams working at the Perth station and at ESA's Space Operations
Centre, Darmstadt, Germany, were delighted to see a clear signal during
the first of the passes.
Telemetry received via Perth station
ESA's 15m tracking station, Perth, Australia
"The first pass was successful in that the spacecraft's radio downlink
was commanded to switch on and telemetry was received," said Wolfgang
Hell, ESA's Service Manager for Phobos–Grunt.
Telemetry typically includes information on the status and health of a spacecraft's systems.
"The signals received from Phobos–Grunt were much stronger than
those initially received on 22 November, in part due to having better
knowledge of the spacecraft's orbital position."
The second pass was short, and so was used only to uplink commands – no receipt of signal was expected.
the following three passes in the early morning of 24 November proved
to be more difficult: no signal was received from Phobos–Grunt.
ESA engineers assist Russian mission controllers
Phobos-Grunt orbiter and lander
Working with Russian mission controllers, ESA engineers are carefully
studying the situation, which may be related to the spacecraft's
communication system. During last night's first two passes, one of the
two low-gain antennas on Phobos–Grunt was, due to the spacecraft's
orbital position, oriented toward Perth, and communications worked.
the three later passes, the spacecraft's orbital position changed, and
the second, opposing, antenna had to be used – but no signal was
"Our Russian colleagues will use this result for troubleshooting
and to plan their commands for us to send tonight," says Manfred
Warhaut, ESA’s Head of Mission Operations.
Communication support continues tonight
ESA engineers will work today to provide advice and assistance on
possible communication strategies to consolidate the contact now
established with the mission.
Another five communication slots are available during the night
of 24–25 November, and the Perth tracking station will again be
allocated on a priority basis to Phobos–Grunt.
More news will follow as the situation develops.