Our fault? Nope.

Roscosmos chief Vladimir Popovkin insinuated the loss of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft was because of American sabotage, echoing an earlier accusation that radar sites in Alaska are deliberately downing foreign spacecraft. For one thing, the high-frequency phased array radio transmitters that are part of the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) just don’t put out that much power. A spacecraft would see orders of magnitude more from the Sun itself, especially during a solar storm. HAARP seems to be the center of a number of conspiracy theories, supposedly responsible for causing earthquakes, hurricanes, and chronic fatigue syndrome. You’ll pardon me if I don’t accept Jesse Ventura as an expert on that.

Second, we test everything for electromagnetic interference/electromagnetic compatibility (EMI/EMC).

Anechoic Chamber at MSFC - designed to stop any reflection of sound or electromagnetic waves

Circuit traces on printed circuit boards can act as antennas, there’s noise coupling through magnetic induction, and I don’t know what all else. That’s why you have testing, shielding, and mitigation. One of my experiments ended up with a fair amount of copper tape to suppress EMI. That’s just one of many boxes you check in getting a spacecraft ready for flight. I’m betting the Russians forgot to check a few.

13 thoughts on “Our fault? Nope.”

    1. Meh, I wouldn’t call it garbage. It’s just there’s a thousand things that can go wrong, and any one of them kills your spacecraft. It could have been something as simple as something outgassing on the navigation camera so it couldn’t see enough to orient itself prior to the orbital burn.

  1. My uncle was a “big cheese” in the Soviet Union’s military satellite program. I will never forget what he told me a few years ago …. the Russian space program is just a shell of what it once was. If he was alive today (he passed away a few years ago), he would not be surprised by these incidents.

  2. Clearly it was us, because Russia has a reputation for super-reliable technology. From Chernobyl to the Kursk, Russia has long been on the forefront of super-safe and super-advanced.

    Seriously, though, why would we want to sabotage it? What would be the point?

  3. You don’t accept “The Body” as an expert on HAARP? [shakes head sadly at your….]

    While often there is some truth in conspiracy theories, the truth is usually so buried in the noise around it that you usually can’t see the truth.

    Even if a radar, say, radiated enough power to kill birds near the antenna, the flux drops with the cube of the radius and and you would have to have a very sensitive detector at the satellite to even know the signal is present.

    1. There is a very short list of things that people have not blamed on HAARP. If HAARP were really that successful, then I’d say bring the PM for that project over to work on some really important stuff like the F-35 or something.

    1. English translation: your local radio station puts out more microwave radiation per cm^2 than HAARP does.

  4. The Russians have not had a successful deep space probe the fall of the Soviet Union. Mars 96 went the way of Phobos-Grunt (failed to leave Earth orbit). Of their two Phobos probes in the late `80s, one failed, the other was a partial success.

    There is probably almost as much art in designing and flying deep space missions as there is engineering. Those skills are undoubtedly perishable.

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