Larry - re: "We can't necessarily be too smug about this. I seem to remember an American Mars probe that sailed right past that planet..." There was also the Mars probe that crashed because of a Imperial vs. Metric mix up. And there was also the Genesis solar wind sample & return mission that crashed because the G sensor used to trigger parachute deployment was installed backwards.
@DrQuine: I agree that a simple thing like keying the package should help ensure proper mounting. In this case, the source stated the "angular velocity sensors" may have been the wrong way around. The only way to test those after they're installed may be to rotate the rocket, as they only respond to dynamic rotational motion - sitting on the launch pad, they will report zeros. (although the Proton system seems to include rotating the rocket in place, I'm not sure of the feasibility of having the navigation systems in a test mode during that operation).
I'm sure there will be an analysis to prevent this from happening in the future.
@Kevin N: Okay if all redundant sensors were mounted backwards, this could be due to manual error that instructions for installation were not followed appropriately or instruction for installation was dubious; Also then, there was a process gap that the installation was not reviewed by somebody independently.
By the way...will there be any official report released some point of time?
Interesting comment--this type of thing happens often? It's a bit amazing that the systems that we look at to be in the forefront of innovation can be brought down by such errors. I really appreciate all of these comments. At first I thought this couldn't be true, but the more I read from those of you in the know, it seems pretty possible.
It is very difficult to believe that such a mistake could have been made !
It will be interesting to know the design of the sensors- where there was an indication of how to mount them . If the basic instructions has been overlooked then it shows a poor standard of inspection and testing of a billion dollar product
Good point, Sanjib. You would think that there would be redundant systems. In the US, it's standard practice to have triple redundancy on space probes. And the monitoring stations on the ground watch every indicator. There is certainly a possibility that this report is true, but I think there is a larger chance that the report is based on poor information.
@Tom: I agree with you. I am a bit skeptic about the source, which has pointed to an important sensor getting installed "Up-side Down" as the cause of the failure. Why I think so?...several reasons. One is already mentioned by Tom. Also:
1. There should have been well-established processes for design, development and manufacturing space equipments as this kind of space programs deal with huge money, reputation and safety. The process should have been rugged enough to prevent this kind of human error. If not prevented, atleast, it should have been caught in inspection or some kind of quality checking/reviews.
2. Even if it was a mistake, I think design should have had redundant sensors to take care of this kind errors. Hope not all of those were mounted "upside-down"...otherwise there must had been a serious process gap somewhere.
I don't think this kind of error getting un-detected is something which could be expected from a well settled space organization isn't it?