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Spektr-R, Russia's only space radio telescope, stops responding to commands

Spektr-R radio telescope at Baikonur's Space Center, within the integration and test complex of Launch Pad No.31.
Photo: RIA Novosti (Wikimedia Commons)

Russia's only radio band, Spektr-R (RadioAstron) has stopped responding to spacecraft control personnel, reported the BBC last Saturday, but Astro Space Center, chief Nikolai Kardashev, told the BBC that still transfer scientific data.

Spekt-R has a 33-foot radio antenna dish that works in conjunction with terrestrial radio telescopes during an international program. According to the BBC, Roscosmo's staff told us that the craft launched in July 2011 on a Zenit-3F interchangeable carrier market has worked well beyond an original five-year projected lifetime. It stopped responding on Friday, despite repeated attempts to re-establish a connection. Spektr-R research leader Yuri Kovalev told BBC "there is still hope" that Roscosmo's staff will be able to restore functionality.

"Specialists in the main operating group spacecraft are working to remove the existing problems … From January 10, 2019, problems were encountered in the operation of the service systems that currently make it impossible to address a targeted task" , Roscosmos wrote in a statement to TASS, Russia's state press agency.

Additional information on the type of malfunction was not immediately available.

Russia Beyond, another Russian state media source, reported in 2016 that Spektr-R was expected to continue operating until the end of 2018, with research including galactic nuclei and magnetic fields, quasars and pulses and other space projects:

The new program is focused on studies of internal areas of active galaxy nuclei and magnetic fields, monitoring of the brightest quasars, examination of water vapor clouds in space, pulsars and interstellar matter, gravity experiments, etc.

The RadioAstron project is based on a ten meter orbital radio telescope, the unique astrophysical observatory Spektr-R, which forms an integrated radio structure with a super large base together with the ground based radio telescope. The observatory is tasked with carrying out basic astrophysical studies in electromagnetic spectrum bands. RadioAstron has record discrimination based on distances of up to 350,000 kilometers between telescopes.

While it was launched for the first time in 2011, SpaceNews reported at the time that the craft was originally slated for a launch in 2004 or 2005 "before there were several delays in its construction."

Another newer radio telescope, the Canadian hydrogen intensity mapping experiment (CHIME), is still not fully functional but did the news this week when it discovered 13 new high-speed radio blasts, mysterious high energy pulses from unknown, remote sources that have traveled billions across the galaxy. Potential explanations for rapid radio outbreaks are magnets (fast-spinning neutron stars), neutron star-white dwarf fusions, collapsed stars, black holes and very much ultimately in evidence – a kind of artificial extraterrestrial source. Among CHIME's findings, the other was ever reported repeated quick-paced, but the missionary told Science Magazine this week they are hoping to eventually discover hundreds or even thousands of straight radio outbreaks.


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