The failed Russian Phobos-Grunt should reenter Earth's atmosphere and crash this weekend.
A coordinated global campaign is monitoring a wayward Russian Mars probe that's slated to crash to Earth in the next few days, the European Space Agency has announced.
The doomed Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, which Russian officials estimate will re-enter Earth's atmosphere between Saturday and Monday (Jan. 14-16), is now officially a target for the 12-member Inter-Agency Space Debris Coordination Committee, or IADC for short.
"An IADC re-entry prediction campaign is ongoing since January 2. Phobos-Grunt was identified to be no high-risk object," said Heiner Klinkrad, head of the space debris office at the European Space Agency's (ESA) European Space Operations Centerin Darmstadt, Germany. "Hence, this will be adopted as our annual 'test campaign' for 2012," he told SPACE.com.
The determination that Phobos-Grunt is not a high-risk piece of space junk is due to the relatively low dry mass of the errant spacecraft — just 2.5 tons. There is about 11 tons of toxic propellant onboard, adding up to the probe’s total mass of 13.5 tons.According to ESA, studies by the Russian space agency (known as Roscosmos) and NASA indicate that Phobos-Grunt's fuel tanks should burst high above the Earth, releasing a load of propellant that will subsequently dissipate.