Russia hints at spacecraft interference

Jan. 11, 2012 at 12:44 PM

MOSCOW, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A Russian space official said a Mars-bound spacecraft due to crash to Earth soon may have failed because it was struck by some type of anti-satellite weapon.

Roscosmos Director Vladimir Popovkin, in making the suggestion in an interview Tuesday, did not say who he thought might want to target or interfere with the spacecraft, The New York Times reported.

The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft was launched in November but malfunctioned and its engines failed to lift it out of low Earth orbit and send it toward Mars.

A retired commander of Russia's missile warning system speculated at the time strong radar signals from installations in Alaska might have damaged the spacecraft, a suggestion Popov raised in his interview.

"We don't want to accuse anybody but there are very powerful devices that can influence spacecraft now," he said. "The possibility they were used cannot be ruled out."

Popovkin did not mention the United States in the interview but cited "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" -- an apparent reference to the Americas.

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