Russia’s Phobos-Grunt mission to collect samples from one of Mars’s moons has been scaled down to save costs, with the mission now budgeted to cost Rb1.5 billion ($53 million). The lander will be launched aboard a Soyuz 2 Fregat booster – rather than a Proton as originally planned – in October 2009.

After a 280- to 350-day journey to Mars, with the aid of an electrical propulsion system, Phobos-Grunt will enter an initial Martian orbit that will enable it to be captured eventually by the gravity of Phobos.

The craft will land on the moon and drill to collect samples from the surface, placing them into an airtight capsule on the craft. The capsule will then be fired on an Earth trajectory and recovered after a re-entry into the atmosphere months later. The main spacecraft will remain on the surface of Phobos, to continue its remote observation of Mars.

The craft will also carry up to 150kg (330lb) of international equipment, including four 20kg meteorological surface stations that will be deployed on to the surface of Mars. A prototype radio transmitter for the mission will be tested on a RadioAstron satellite to be launched in 2006.

Russia launched a Cosmos 3M booster from Plesetsk in late October, carrying eight satellites, one of which did not separate.


Source: Flight International