Nicknamed the “Russian Hubble”, Spektr-R is no longer responding to orders from the control centre. However, the Russia Space Agency believes that it is nothing to worry about as the satellite continues to orbit and transmit information as normal.
Caused by cosmic rays
According to a report published by the press group TASS on the 13 January 2018, Yuri Kovalev the director of the the Spektr-R (RadioAstron) mission reported the loss of the satellite carrying the space telescope. The director confirmed a fault when a transmitted signal from Earth didn’t seem to activate the transmitter. The cause of the fault is unknown. Although nothing is certain, it is possible that cosmic rays could have affected the satellites electronic systems, according to a press release published on the 14 January.
Yuri Kovalev believes that the satellite is still “alive” and “has enough energy.” The communication problem hasn’t affected the telescopes scientific equipment and any of it’s other systems. The satellite continues to transmit information as usual and hasn’t deviated from it’s orbit.
The mission still functioning
The Spektr-R mission isn’t finished and the Russian Space Agency hasn’t lost hope about renewing the contract. However the telescope is very important as it is Russia’s only space telescope. What’s more the telescope has already exceeded it’s five year life expectancy. This is perhaps another reason why the device may be having difficulties.
Put into orbit in 2011, Spektr-R has a 10 metre diameter satellite dish. The device aims to detect radio signals that come from the Milky Way and beyond. The telescope allows Russian researchers to study quasars, black holes and active galactic nucleus’ located several billion light years from Earth. Astronomers are also looking to study areas of star and planet formation (masers, megamasers), carry out astrometric measurements as well as precisely measure Earth’s gravitational field.
Nevertheless, Roscomos is planning to launch another telescope of the same type. The telescope is called Spektr-RG and was created in collaboration with Germany. The telescope should be launched in April 2019.