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Observing Phobos-Grunt engine burns


Phobos-Grunt State Vectors Zip File from 11/13/2011






The Russian Space Research Institute has requested optical (video or CCD)
observations of two critical engine burns that will be performed by their
Phobos-Soil mission that plans to return soil samples from Phobos. The
first engine burn will occur on Nov. 8 from 22:55.8 to 23:05.3 UT and
will be visible only from the southeastern part of Brazil, fortunately
the most populous part of the country with many observatories. The
spacecraft will be at an altitude of about 240 km at the start of the
burn, and will be 280 km high at the end. The second burn, on the next
orbit at higher altitude, will be visible over a larger area, including
the Amazon region and all of northwestern South America, including
northernmost Chile (the max. altitude will be 8 deg. at Cerro Paranal),
as well as Panama (max. alt. 1 deg. at San Jose, Costa Rica), much of
the Caribbean Sea area (max. alt. 28 deg. at San Juan, PR but only 4 deg.
at Miami, FL) and Bermuda (max. alt. 16 deg.). The second burn starts
on Nov. 9 at 1:02.8 UT (alt. 580 km) and ends at 1:20.2 UT (alt. 1060 km).
A map showing the ground track of the spacecraft, with the engine burn
segments highlighted, is in a Power Point (.ppt) file provided by the
Space Research Institute and posted by Derek Breit at
http://www.poyntsource.com/New/Dunham.htm . Predictions
of the path in the sky for your observing site can be computed from the
JPL Horizons Web site at
http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/horizons.cgi - for the
object, click on [change] next to "Target Body", then select the
"spacecraft" tab under "choose from a list of:", and then select
"Phobos-Soil" (object -555). Under Table settings, select "astrometric
RA & DEC)" and "apparent AZ & EL"; other quantities are optional. Pay
attention to the EL column, since negative values mean it's below your
horizon. For the time interval, use 5 or 10 seconds since its motion
will be rapid. Currently, the ephemeris on the Horizons Web site ends
very soon after Nov. 9 at 01:20 UT (near or at the end of the 2nd
engine burn), so you must specify an end time of Nov. 9 at 01:20 UT or
earlier; otherwise, the calculation will fail and you will obtain no
tabular output. The spacecraft will probably be rather faint by itself
(but maybe 5th or 4th mag. during its low orbit) but the engine burns
will probably be visible naked eye, at least with binoculars. We have
requested a longer predicted ephemeris since the spacecraft should be
visible by reflected sunlight when it's not in shadow with telescopes
for one or two days after the launch, and for another day or two with
large telescopes.

If weather or other problems develop at the Bainonur launch site, there
are backup launch opportunities the next two days.


Header information about Phobos-Soil from the JPL Horizons Web site gives
more information:

Revised: Oct 10, 2011 Phobos-Soil Spacecraft -555

This trajectory is a planning version that assumes Phobos-Soil launch will
occur 2011-Nov-8 23:25 UTC from Baikonur. Backup dates are Nov 9 & 10.
If there is a delay, it is hoped we will be able to update things here.

Engine burns:
1st: 2011-Nov-08 22:55:47.981 UTC - 23:05:18.253 UTC
2nd: 2011-Nov-09 01:02:48.870 UTC - 01:20:09.975 UTC

These burns are not visible to Russian ground stations, and while the
spacecraft will record telemetry for later playback, near "real-time"
imaging and astrometry, especially during the burns, is sought.

Shadow entrance & exit times:
#1 enter: 2011-Nov-08 20:36:00.000 UTC
exit : 2011-Nov-08 20:40:18.289 UTC

#2 enter: 2011-Nov-08 21:34:27.083 UTC
exit : 2011-Nov-08 22:10:20.337 UTC

#3 enter: 2011-Nov-08 23:04:29.651 UTC
exit : 2011-Nov-08 23:36:02.611 UTC

#4 enter: 2011-Nov-09 01:16:43.566 UTC
exit : 2011-Nov-09 01:20:09.899 UTC

Phobos-Soil is an unmanned mission of the Russian Federal Space Agency that
will land on the Martian moon and return a soil sample to Earth. Also known
as "Phobos-Grunt" or "Fobos-Grunt" ("grunt" being the Russian word meaning
soil or dirt), or "PhSRM" for Phobos Sample Return Mission.

It will also study Mars from orbit, including its atmosphere and dust storms,
plasma and radiation environment. It is currently scheduled to be launched
November 2011 on a Zenit launch vehicle with a Fregat upper stage. The return
vehicle is scheduled to arrive back on Earth in August 2014.

Mission control will be the Russian Center for Deep Space Communications

* Collect soil samples from Phobos and return them to Earth for scientific
research on Phobos, Mars, and Martian space.
* In situ and remote studies of Phobos (to include analysis of soil samples)
* Monitoring the atmospheric behavior of Mars, including the dynamics of
dust storms
* Studies of the vicinity of Mars, to include its radiation environment,
plasma and dust
* Study of the origin of the Martian satellites and their relation to Mars
* Study of the role played by asteroid impacts in the formation of
terrestrial planets
* Search for possible past or present life (biosignatures)
* Sending select extremophile microorganisms on a three-year interplanetary
round-trip in a small sealed capsule (LIFE experiment).

11,100 kg (w/fuel)

Other Payloads:
#1) Yinghuo-1
The first Chinese Mars probe, Yinghuo-1, will be launched with Phobos-Soil.
In late 2012, after a 10-11.5 months cruise, Yinghuo-1 separates and enters
a 800 x 80,000 km three day equatorial orbit (5 deg inclination). Yinghuo-1
is expected to remain in Martian orbit for one year. Yinghuo-1 will focus
mainly on the study of the external environment of Mars.
#2) MetNet
Two landers developed by the Finnish Meteorological Institute, are included
with the Phobos-Soil launch.
#3) LIFE
A payload from the Planetary Society called the Living Interplanetary
Flight Experiment, or LIFE, will send 10 types of microorganisms and a
natural soil colony of microbes on the three-year round trip to assess
their ability to survive the space environment.

* TV system for navigation and guidance
* Gamma ray spectrometer
* Neutron spectrometer
* Alpha X spectrometer
* Mass spectrometer
* Seismometer
* Long-wave radar
* Visual and near-infrared spectrometer
* Dust counter
* Ion spectrometer
* Optical solar sensor



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