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Russia to Delay Martian Moon Mission

Two-year setback seen as a blow to Russian space program's world standing

3 min read

7 April 2009—Russia will announce a two-year delay of its flagship planetary mission this month, a project participant told IEEE Spectrum.

The 11-ton Phobos-Gruntspacecraft, designed to land on the surface of the Martian moon Phobos and return samples of its soil back to Earth, was scheduled to lift off October 2009. A number of science institutions around the world have contributed instruments and experiments for the ambitious project. However, according to Francis Rocard, a scientist at CNES, the French space agency, which supplied some of the scientific payloads for the project, Russian space officials are about to announce a postponement of Phobos-Grunt’s launch to 2011.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

The Webb’s comms aren’t flashy. Rather, the data and communication systems are designed to be incredibly, unquestionably dependable and reliable. And while some aspects of them are relatively new—it’s the first mission to use Ka-band frequencies for such high data rates so far from Earth, for example—above all else, JWST’s comms provide the foundation upon which JWST’s scientific endeavors sit.

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