Libmonster ID: RU-17178

After a year of stagnation, preconditioned by failures (loss of automatic stations) and financial problems, Russian research apparatuses are going up to space again. What will be significant for space exploration in 2011? Academician Lev Zelyony, Director of the RAS Institute for Space Research, answered this question in an interview to Dmitry Mysyakov, a correspondent of the Poisk newspaper.

He said that a series of very important, even historic, launchings are being prepared now.

This summer the national satellite Radioastron will be launched to stretched orbit (with an apogee of 350,000 km). The parabolic mirror of its telescope (10 m in diameter) will first be folded; after the satellite is in orbit, it will open. Together with a global terrestrial network of its "fellows" in Pushchino (Russia), Canberra (Australia) and Green Bank (USA), it will make up a part of a single large-scale interferometric system, which will enable scientists to obtain images of radiosources and measure their coordinates with an accuracy of 8 ppm of the arc. This, in its turn, will help look into the nearest environs of radiogalactic nuclei and "black holes"*, depths of the origination areas of young stars in the Universe. The equipment on board the Radioastron was developed at the Astrocosmic Center of the RAS Institute of Physics named after P. Lebedev under the supervision of Academician Nikolai Kardashev; the satellite itself was designed and produced at the Scientific Production Association named after S. Lavochkin (Khimki, Moscow Region). The scientific community already nicknamed the new radiotelescope "Russian Hubble". As for its accuracy, it will exel its American analog-the automatic observatory Hubble, designed by the NASA and

See: A. Cherepashchuk, "Mysteries of the Universe", Science in Russia, No. 3, 2011.--Ed.

the European Space Agency and put into orbit around the Earth in 1990.

According to Acad. Zelyony, a small space vehicle launch program will start this very year on the basis of the standard Karat platform and produced at the Scientific Production Association named after S. Lavochkin in the form of a frameless nonpressurized structure weighing about 100 kg. This program is connected with other 25 projects of Roscosmos. Putting of 5 research satellites into orbit for the Russian Academy of Sciences is among top priorities.

The first apparatus of this series-Zond-PP--will be equipped with a L-range radiometer (RAS Institute of Radioengineering and Electronics named after V. Kotel-nikov) for remote sounding of the Earth to map moisture content of soils, salinity of water areas and studies of energy interchange system "ocean--land--atmosphere". These data are vital to forecast environmental and climate changes. The observation range of the apparatus is 450 km, while its spatial resolution is ~50 km, it can differentiate 10 grades of humidity or 5 grades of salinity. Notwithstanding its small dimensions, the device is competitive with foreign analogs. But in fact it will become the first satellite designed and launched especially for the above-said purposes.

As explained by Acad. Zelyony, the second and third apparatuses are not of less interest: Monica (Moscow Institute of Engineering and Physics) is designed to study physical mechanisms of generation of cosmic rays, originating as a result of active processes on the Sun and in the heliosphere; Relek (Research Institute of Nuclear Physics named after D. Skobeltsyn, Lomonosov Moscow State University) is oriented to study physical mechanisms of influence of energetic particles of different origin on the terrestrial atmosphere.

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The fourth of the scheduled satellites Konus-M (RAS Physico-Technological Institute named after A. loffe, St. Petersburg) is designed to study space gamma-splashes. And Strannik, that will be operated by ten participants of the space program, offers large-scale measurements--from the inertial length of electron to interstellar wind. This satellite is equipped with correctional engines: thanks to them the machine can change its orbit. It was its mobility that preconditioned the name.

One of the key advantages of small-size space vehicles is low cost of their design and putting into orbit. They help create satellite communication networks and constant monitoring of the Earth surface. In addition, they are highly reliable and have a long service life. It is not by chance that the Federal Space Program includes creation of a series of small satellites able to solve tasks that seemed real only for heavy giants 20 years ago.

As Acad. Zelyony said, specialists of the Institute for Space Research together with their colleagues from the RAS Institute of Physics and Research Institute of Nuclear Physics, Moscow State University, completed

Chibis project "approved" in 2004. "The equipment and the satellite itself were designed at the academy at our own expense,--he pointed out.--The process was delayed due to financial problems, but now we can be proud of the fact that we created our own unique micro-satellite". It is aimed to study fine physical processes registered at the beginning of lightning discharges. In 1992, Academician Alexander Gurevich (from 2003), a prominent theoretician of physics from the RAS Institute of Physics, contemplated that origination of these processes is accompanied by the so-called "spark-over on escaping electrons" and generation of strong splashes of gamma-radiation. These phenomena were later on discovered by foreign astrophysical satellites; but Acad. Zelyony believes that there are many things left to be verified by way of a specially "oriented" experiment.

He also told us about an unusual way to deliver Chibis to its place of operation. The apparatus will first fly on board the Progress transport plane to the International Space Station in a universal launching can. The astronauts will take it out to get access to other "parcels" from

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the Earth and then put it back. Progress will take it to the height of 500 km on the unused fuel and will automatically "throw" it out to space. "This will be one of the cheapest ways to launch unmanned apparatuses",--Zelyony emphasized,--as before that we simply put Progress vehicles out of orbit and sank them in the Pacific. Today they can be of great help in scientific research."

The phenomena connected with storms will be simultaneously studied in different electromagnetic radiation spectra for the first time: the equipment onboard the satellite includes X-ray gamma-detector, UV detector, radio frequency analyzer, digital optical band camera and plasma-wave devices. Obtained data will surely let us come closer to the secret of lightning formation during storms.

However, as Acad. Zelyony stated, the launch of an automatic station Phobos-Grunt* scheduled for November 2011, namely on 11.11.11, will be the key event for Russian space industry. This interesting date was planned as the most suitable for a launch. This project includes a flight to Mars, landing on its satellite Phobos, sampling of soil and going back to the Earth.

These two celestial bodies have been in the focus of attention of scientists from different countries of the world, including Soviet specialists, for a long time. According to Zelyony, Americans used to joke: "the reds are striving to get to the Red planet". The first expedition was organized in late 1980s. Following the socialist tradi-

See: E. Galimov, "'Phobos-Grunt', the Russian Project", Science in Russia, No. 1, 2006.--Ed.

tion, two duplicating apparatuses were launched. One vehicle was lost on its way to Mars, the second reached Phobos, worked for a couple of months and disappeared too. The majority of obtained data referred to the plasma coat of Mars, were used by scientists for research for many years. So, when the objectives of a new interplanetary expedition became clear, it was resolved to get back to Phobos. But, if in the first case it was studied remotely, i.e. by means of laser strokes on the surface, today scientists are planning to land a vehicle there and get samples of the soil.

Specialists believe: Phobos can turn to be more interesting for science than Mars. According to Acad. Zelyony, Phobos was once an asteroid and became a satellite as a result of capture by Martian gravitation force. Scientists think that the former has preserved (to a certain extent) some properties of the relic substance--that "construction material", which once formed the Sun and planets.

However, in view of high movement speeds, it is very difficult to study these celestial bodies using contact methods. Here the nature itself took care of Phobos: caught it in a kind of trap. At the same time, the gravitation of this satellite (~20 km in diameter) is very small. Compared with Mars, it is much easier to get back to the Earth from Phobos: much less fuel is consumed.

Moreover, Acad. Zelyony continued, while moving to the ultimate destination point, the apparatus will unavoidably get to orbit around the Red Planet and will come closer to it in about six months. Meanwhile, the apparatus will carry on experiments on remote sounding

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of its surface and atmosphere. About one third of nineteen devices of the station, most of which have been designed by the scientists for the first time and have no analogs in the world, are intended for this program.

The satellite is equipped with a soil sampling device of improved configuration: in addition to the conventional manipulator, it has a percussion tool like a hammer designed by Polish colleagues. It will be used to crush the rock when taking samples. The main advantage of this device is that it produces no kick-back--otherwise it could "push" the satellite out to space, given such insignificant gravitation.

Samples of the soil taken on Phobos (the scientist does not exclude a possibility to find some Martian substances in it, left after meteorite "bombing" of the Red Planet) will be sent to the Earth, while the devices will continue working: they will study the satellite itself, monitor the climate of the nearest mysterious planet and space around it. The obtained information will be processed by specialists of the RAS Institute for Space Research, RAS Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry named after V. Vernadsky and their colleagues from France and Germany.

In addition to scientific significance of planned experiments, the Phobos-Grunt program is of exceptional importance for the future of Russian space research. This satellite designed by specialists of the Scientific Production Association named after S. Lavochkin will become the first step in the future series of interplanetary projects. As Acad. Zelyony concluded, "our advantages are studies of celestial bodies using contact methods by means of landing apparatuses. In due course this was brilliantly demonstrated on the Moon: 2 Moon research vehicles and 3 return rockets helped national science to make a real breakthrough. Today our hopes are connected with Phobos and we are planning a flight to Europe, the satellite of Jupiter. To my mind, this direction can and will become prevailing".

D. Mysyakov, To Mars with a Hammer. -- "Poisk" newspaper, April 8, 2011


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