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Engine trouble keeps Mars probe in Earth orbit

(China Daily)

08:27, November 10, 2011

The Zenit-2SB rocket, carrying the Phobos-Grunt probe, blasts off from its launch at the cosmodrome in Baikonur November 9, 2011. Russia's first interplanetary mission in more than two decades went awry on Wednesday when an unmanned spacecraft failed to take the proper course toward Mars after its launch, the Interfax news agency cited the head of Russian space agency Roskosmos as saying.(Xinhua Photo)

BEIJING - Scientists are working to rekindle the Russia-China joint Mars probe after the spacecraft failed to enter the intended orbit on day one.

Yinghuo-1, China's first interplanetary spacecraft, had hitched a ride with Russia's Phobos-Grunt mission when it blasted off at 4:16 am on Wednesday Beijing time from the launch center in Kazakhstan.

The Russian spacecraft was scheduled to fly in a low orbit around Earth, then after two ignitions of the sustainer engine it was to shoot off on its designated trajectory to the Red Planet.

But Russia's space agency said that the probe had failed to enter the departure trajectory and remained in the support orbit.

Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, was quoted as saying that mission control lost contact with the probe because its engine failed to start after separation from the main rocket carrier.

"There was neither first nor second ignition," Popovkin said. "Russia's space control systems and similar systems of the United States searched the spacecraft on the orbit. Its fuel tanks have not been thrown off."

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