Russian space agency director suggests a weapon could have caused the failure of Phobos-Grunt

If you follow science and space, one of the most glorious failures in a long time was the Russian Phobos-Grunt probe. The massive 13-ton spacecraft was hefted off the ground on an intended mission to reach Mars for study of one of the red planet's moons. Sadly, for the Russian space program the spacecraft failed to make it out of low Earth orbit.

The failed launch left the craft in a degrading orbit that will have Phobos-Grunt falling back into the atmosphere and breaking up. The craft is being tracked by Russia and NASA with parts of the craft expected to survive re-entry and fall anywhere along a massive swath of Earth that includes major cities of London, New York, and Tokyo.

Originally Russian space agency director Vladimir Popovkin has speculated that an issue with the craft's navigation computer could have been the source of the failure. However, he is now hinting that the failure of the probe could have been due to some sort of anti-satellite weapon. Popovkin didn't come out and accuse anyone or any country of attacking the probe. The New York Times reports that a retired commander of a Russian missile warning system had previously speculated that strong radar signals from installations in Alaska could have damaged the spacecraft.

Popovkin said in an interview with a paper called Izvestia, "We don't want to accuse anybody, but there are very powerful devices that can influence spacecraft now. The possibility they were used cannot be ruled out." He also said, "the frequent failure of our space launches, which occur at a time when they are flying over the part of Earth not visible from Russia, where we do not see the spacecraft and do not receive telemetric information, are not clear to us."

[via NYTimes]