Russia Fuels Phobos-Grunt and sets Mars Launch for November 9

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Russia’s Space Agency, Roscosmos, has set November 9 as the launch date for the Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars and its tiny moon Phobos. Roscosmos has officially announced that the audacious mission to retrieve the first ever soil samples from the surface of Phobos will blastoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan atop a Zenit-2SB rocket at 00:16 a.m. Moscow time.

Roscosmos said that engineers have finished loading all the propellants into the Phobos-Grunt main propulsion module (cruise stage), Phobos lander and Earth return module at Facility 31 at Baikonur.

Phobos-Grunt is Russia’s first mission to Mars in almost two decades and a prelude to an ambitious program of even more interplanetary Russian science flights.

Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft is set to launch to Mars on November 9, 2011.
L-shaped soil sample transfer tube extends from Earth return module ( top -yellow) and solar panel to bottom (left) of lander module. 2 landing legs, communications antenna, sampling arm, propulsion tanks and more are visible. Credit Roscosmos

Technicians also fueled the companion Yinghou-1 mini-satellite, provided by China, that will ride along inside a truss segment between the MDU propulsion module and the Phobos-Grunt lander.

The 12,000 kg Phobos-Grunt interplanetary spacecraft is being moved to an integration and test area at Facility 31 for integration with the departure segments of the Zenit rocket.

The next step is to enclose Phobos-Grunt inside the protective payload fairing and transport it to Facility 42 for mating atop the upper stage of the stacked Zenit-2SB booster rocket.

After about an 11 month journey, the spaceship will enter Mars orbit and spend several months searching for a suitable landing site on Phobos. The goal of the bold mission is to retrieve up to 200 grams of soil and rock from Phobos and return them to Earth in August 2014. The samples will help unlock the mysteries of the origin and evolution of Phobos, Mars and the Solar System.

Scientists hope that bits of Martian soil will be mixed in with Phobos soil.

Phobos-Grunt is equipped with a powerful 50 kg payload of some 20 international science instruments.

The 110 kg Yinghou-1, which translates as Firefly-1, is China’s first spaceship to voyage to Mars. It will be jettisoned by Phobos-Grunt into a separate orbit about Mars. The probe will photograph the Red planet with two cameras and study it with a magnetometer to explore Mars’ magnetic field and science instruments to explore its upper atmosphere.

Earth’s other mission to Mars in 2011, NASA’s Curiosity rover, is set to blast off for Mars on Nov. 25

Labeled Schematic of Phobos-Grunt and Yinghou-1 (YH-1) orbiter

Read Ken’s continuing features about Russia’s Phobos-Grunt Mars mission here::
Phobos-Grunt and Yinghou-1 Arrive at Baikonur Launch Site to tight Mars Deadline
Phobos-Grunt: The Mission Poster
Daring Russian Sample Return mission to Martian Moon Phobos aims for November Liftoff

Read Ken’s continuing features about Curiosity starting here:
Curiosity Buttoned Up for Martian Voyage in Search of Life’s Ingredients
Assembling Curiosity’s Rocket to Mars
Encapsulating Curiosity for Martian Flight Test
Dramatic New NASA Animation Depicts Next Mars Rover in Action

Israel and Russia Sign Space Cooperation Agreement

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The Israeli government has signed an agreement with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, for cooperation in space for peaceful purposes. Areas where the two countries may work together are exploration and research, remote sensing of Earth from space, materials science, space biology and medicine, satellite navigation technology, and launch services. Israel also has similar agreements with NASA and the ESA.

The two countries have already been cooperating extensively in development of high-tech hardware, and Russia has purchased Israeli-made unmanned drones for its security services.

One of the goals of the Israeli Space Agency is to promote innovative scientific projects based on international collaboration.

“The trend of international cooperation and unification of forces for action in space is more and more dominant and there are now several major multinational projects like the space station, handling problems and global warming climate research, spacecraft operation… physics and solar system exploration,” said Dr. Zvi Kaplan, head of the Israeli Space Agency. “We thank all of the organizations that were active in achieving the agreement, including the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Justice.”

Those present at the signing included Kaplan, Anatoly Perminov, head of Roscosmos, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Science and Technology Professor Daniel Hershkowitz, Russian Ambassador to Israel, Peter Stganye, and experts from both countries in space.

According to the Israeli science news website Hayadan, Netanyahu said that the combination of Russia’s most developed industrial and Israel’s sophisticated technology will provide for improvements and changes for both countries in space.

“The road was indeed was short, but the desire to work together existed, and last year the two sides accelerated the pace, because of the desire to get started,” said Menachem Grinblum, Director General, Ministry of Science and Technology. “We expect the agreement will be translated into joint action research institutions and industries in both countries.”

Source: Hayadan, with special thanks to editor Avi Blizovsky.