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Space Bug NASA

ISS Computer Failure 289

Posted by kdawson
from the little-help-from-my-friends dept.
A number of readers wrote us with news of the computer problems on the International Space Station. Space.com has one of the better writeups on the failure of Russian computers that control the ISS's attitude and some life-support systems. Two out of six computers in a redundant system cannot be rebooted. The space shuttle Atlantis may have its mission extended until the problem is fixed. A NASA spokesman was optimistic that the problem can be resolved; worst-case scenario would be for the shuttle to evacuate everyone onboard the ISS. Engineers are working on the theory (among others) that the failure may have been triggered by new solar panels installed earlier in Atlantis's mission.
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ISS Computer Failure

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  • by Izmir Stinger (876148) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:15AM (#19504059)
    In Soviet Russia, computers control YOUR attitude. Oh, wait... nm
  • by daninaustin (985354) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:17AM (#19504093)
    They need the russian guy from armageddon to bang on the side of the computers!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I know all of my Windows computers were anxious to reboot yesterday.
  • by techpawn (969834) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:21AM (#19504135) Journal
    "...control the ISS's attitude..."
    So the ISS is throwing a temper tantrum? Just put it in time out
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that.
    • by oni (41625) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:50AM (#19504543) Homepage
      I know you're joking but I'm a sucker so here goes: attitude means, "which direction is it pointed" They use big gyroscopes to keep the station oriented so that the solar panels can track the sun.

      Maybe the new solar panels are a new input to the attitude program - "I am a new solar panel, I need to be pointed this way so that my 1 axis motor can track the sun"
    • by niceone (992278) *

      So the ISS is throwing a temper tantrum? Just put it in time out

      How very quaintly 20th century. Pharmaceuticals are the answer these days.

    • I thought the same thing. Of course the Russian computers have an attitude problem.

      "Beep boop... It's so fucking cold out here... I wish I were back in Siberia, at least there it's only cold 11 months out of the year. We're going to die out here, aren't we?"

      Just send up some vodka already, problem fixed. Or, at least addressed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:21AM (#19504143)

    Two out of six computers in a reduntant system cannot be rebooted.

    NASA should have invested in a redundant system, rather than buying a cheap grey-market knockoff.

  • by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:21AM (#19504145) Homepage Journal
    Like many Slashdotters, when the computers at my job fail, my attitude tends to become uncontrollable as well.
  • DFMEA (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThosLives (686517) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:23AM (#19504167) Journal

    Hopefully they're starting with their DFMEA documentation... "guessing" at the problem and having "theories" is probably not a good way to go. Also, it's apparently a common-mode failure, which you shouldn't have in a safety-critical system; generally this is avoided by having different computer hardware and/or completely different code to do the same tasks.

    Quite unfortunate that it seems like systems engineering is lacking in more and more disciplines recently, although I suppose it makes good systems engineers more valuable.

    My list for this would be something like: "Computer doesn't boot." Possible reasons: "No Power", "Insufficient power", "Corrupt memory", "Broken circuits", etc. Then you go down that tree further and find the root cause. The most disturbing thing is that they had such a major common-mode failure...whatever happened to the "no single points of failure" mantra?

    * sigh *

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grommit (97148)
      What part of "2 out of the 6 computers" did you not read? Also, that's 2 out of 6 of the Russian computers. The US side is still working fine.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ThosLives (686517)

        Hrm, the summary is different than the article; the article stated that "two of the six computers are running" which means 4 are down, not 2. Whichever is correct, any time more than one computer goes down, you have to look for common-cause failures.

        Also, according to the article the US computers don't control attitude thrusters and that particular life support system, so the state of the US computers doesn't matter.

        (Note for the anonymous poster above, but I didn't want to post twice: "common cause" mean

        • Re:DFMEA (Score:4, Informative)

          by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @12:06PM (#19507629) Homepage

          Also, according to the article the US computers don't control attitude thrusters and that particular life support system, so the state of the US computers doesn't matter.

          The US computers do however control the CMG's - the backups for the attitude thrusters[1], and the life support for the US side of the station. So even the loss of all the Russian computers wouldn't leave the station in trouble. (Unless CMG desaturation was required - which doesn't happen all that often.)
           
          [1] Next year, IIRC, a second set of CMG's goes active and then the CMG's become primary with the attitude thrusters going into the backup role.
    • Re:DFMEA (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sanat (702) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:47AM (#19504493)
      I have seen ground faults cause these types of problems. maybe the new solar panels has a leakage path back to the mechanical structure creating a voltage distribution problem after being interfaced with the ISS mechanically and electrically.

      These problems are not easy to diagnose when you have hands on capability leave alone 200 miles above Earth.

      I do hope that it is sorted out swiftly and the ISS and its occupants remain safe.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Vellmont (569020)

      "guessing" at the problem and having "theories" is probably not a good way to go.

      Welcome to the real world of problem solving. Any solution always starts out as a guess. It's pretty much impossible to solve any problem without eliminating a whole bunch of possibilities (i.e. guessing and having theories). It's likely 10 times harder when you don't have the tools necessary to diagnose this particular problem. (i.e. they need an oscilloscope to look for strange power fluctuations from the new solar array)
  • by JonathanR (852748) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:24AM (#19504187)

    While the computers have experienced hiccups in the past, a system-wide reboot typically solved the problem, mission managers said.
    OMG, let's just power cycle the ISS, shall we? Should fix the problem...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Sort of related.. The trains on my line in the UK are run using some sort of Java based system (we know because they were very buggy to begin with and the website used to give surprisingly honest updates on progress). ANyway, now and then it still goes a bit loopy and we have to sit in the station while the drive warns us over the Tannoy 'I'm just rebooting the train, back in a few minutes' and sure enough, the power drops, lights go out, fans stop then whoosh, it's on again, the displays start scrolling lo
      • Sounds like you are either in the Southern area or have similar trains to us - the trains where the GPS systems refused to let the doors open if they considered that the train wasn't actually at a station, even though the 'mere human' driving it had lined us up neatly at the platform edge and come to a perfect halt.
    • I suppose as long as the don't turn off the containment to the Martian paddock, they'll be okay.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:24AM (#19504195)
    How about we evacuate the ISS and stop pumping money into that worthless money sink?

    No, no--I know is sounds crazy. But hear me out. Maybe we could actually pursue something NEW--you know, dare to violate that 30-year-old sacrosanct NASA policy of just repeating themselves over and over again and wasting trillions of $ on contractors and grandiose promises which never amount to squat.

    Just a thought.

    • by bronzey214 (997574) <jason.rippel @ g m a i l . c om> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:28AM (#19504251) Journal
      At this point, as a US taxpayer, I'd much rather see the ISS finished rather than just leaving it up there as a pile of space junk.

      It's kinda like finding out your house you're current building will cost twice as much as normal.

      Do you just leave it half finished and abandon it or do you keep pumping money into it?
    • by Billosaur (927319) * <.ten.enilnotpo. .ta. .rehtorgw.> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:39AM (#19504391) Journal

      The investment in time, money, and energy has already been made. To abandon it now, no matter how dysfunctional it is, would be a bigger waste. If the initiatives to return to the Moon and move on to Mars are going to go forward (and given Congress' past performance in this regard, I highly doubt it), then ISS is a necessary platform to span the gap between the Earth and the Moon. MInd you, when the United States was first thinking of going to the Moon, Werner von Braun put forward the plan to build a space station first, then use it as the assembly point for the journey to the Moon. Then, the platform would already have been established, and the Space Shuttle would have been the next natural extension after the end of Apollo. But the idea was shelved in order to get to the Moon by 1970, and as a result we have the current situation. So, we have done it backwards, but to abandon it now would be truly a giant step in reverse.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        The ISS wasn't built to be a launch platform for the moon or Mars. It was built as an overpriced space laboratory. Are you seriously telling me that tiny, fragile low-orbit tin-can is supposed to function as some sort of launch platform for a moon mission, much less a Mars mission? That's laughable.

        And even if it could, what is the point? We've got to get the payload up there either way--and why not go with the PROVEN, much simpler technology that got us there THE FIRST TIME? There is no need to send up a

        • by Megane (129182)

          The ISS wasn't built to be a launch platform for the moon or Mars. It was built as an overpriced space laboratory.

          I thought the actual reason it was built was "to give the Shuttle somewhere to go"? And its orbit was chosen for Russia's convenience. You would probably want a less inclined orbit for a stop-over to Luna or Mars.

      • Stopping rule (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lurker2288 (995635)
        The question is what benefit we currently expect to derive from the station (as it will exist through the remainder of its troubled assembly and expected lifespan). If our estimate of that benefit, made today, is valued less than our current estimate of the cost of completetion, then completing the station is just throwing good money after bad. To say that we've already spent too much to stop now is just silly. Of course, with a situation like this, it's tough to argue that you could really accurately esti
        • by Billosaur (927319) *

          Half the problem is that the ISS was designed by Congress and the President of the United States (Reagan, Bush I, Clinton), not by NASA, vis-a-vis the NASA budget dance. The White House and Congress were continually changing and reshaping its mission, its design, and eventually decided that we had to partner with other countries if we were ever going to get it built. Ask any old NASA engineer and they'll tell you -- this is not your father's space station.

          That said, it is modular, and could be reconfigure

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by 2short (466733)
            "It could be converted from a pure research facility to more of a way station."

            If anybody had ever come up with any mission for which a "way station" served any purpose whatsoever.

            But they haven't.

            I actually have asked a few NASA engineers I know, and their (private) opinion is unanimous: drop the pointless money-suck into the ocean, ASAP.
      • The investment in time, money, and energy has already been made. To abandon it now, no matter how dysfunctional it is, would be a bigger waste.

        The sunk cost fallacy [wikipedia.org]. Just because the international community has pissed away however many $billions on this is not a good reason to go on doing so. There are something like 15 shuttle missions still planned, which could be scrapped, saving countless more $billions and probably even lives (and I don't just mean if one of the remaining shuttles happens to blow

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, 'trillians' of $$$...

      Oh wait, no. Department budgets for 2007 [whitehouse.gov]:

      • Department of Defence: ~$500 billion
      • National Aeronautics and Space Administration: ~$17 billion

      Sort your fucking country out. Just a thought.

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        What does it add up to over the last wasted 30 years?
        • by bberens (965711)
          Just over half a trillion dollars if you assume each year is $17 Billion. I realize each year's budget was different, but I have a hard time believing that it is over $2 Trillion. Since it was already brought up by the GP poster I'll also note that the true cost of the Iraq war is over $1 Trillion in estimated cost when you include the long term care for injured veterans. So... in 5 years of war on terror we've met or exceeded 30 years of space research budget. Note that the 5 year war budget does NOT i
    • I see where you're coming from. I'm not against the ISS, but one thing that strikes me odd is "What science has been done on it?" We pump so much money, yet I have yet to hear of a single thing that has come about because of it, every time it's in the news it's about adding a new module or something bad.

      On the other hand the Hubble cost A LOT less, and even though Nasa was/has(?) abandoned it, it' still provids a lot of valuable information. Even with some components broken, the Hubble has really kicked

    • by Duhavid (677874)
      Great thought.

      Except that once we abandon ISS, start planning again,
      it will be 20~ years gone, then we will start putting
      up the successor device. And it will be a 30 year
      old sacrosanct obsolete POS. With calls to evacuate
      it and start new.
    • by zentinal (602572)

      Alternatively, we could sell it to a private concern, like Bigelow [bigelowaerospace.com] or Virgin [virgingalactic.com] or a private consortium who happens to have a few (ok, many, many) billions lying around.

      Then again, the buyers might require that the ISS be boosted into a more usable, higher orbit before they take posession.

  • by devnullkac (223246) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:24AM (#19504197) Homepage

    The stated worst case scenario is that the ISS will need to be evacuated, but if the remaining gyros are being overwhelmed, might the station enter an unrecoverable spin state before the problem is resolved?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by JonathanR (852748)
      We can only hope...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Enigma23 (460910)

      If they need to evacuate, there are sufficient Soyuz escape modules (tried and tested as the standard re-entry module used by Cosmonauts for the last 40+ years with an almost unchanged design) for all of the current crew capacity on the ISS. Well, I hope so for there sake, or we might have a spaceborn version of what happened to the unfortunate inhabitants of the S.S. Titanic, where passengers vastly outnumbered available spaces on the lifeboats of the supposedly unsinkable ship.

    • by richdun (672214) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:09AM (#19504819)
      Evacuating ISS would be a very bad thing to have happen. The crew would be fine, as this luckily happened with a shuttle in dock, which can act an emergency lifeboat for the whole crew (plus the Soyuz that's up there with them, if things got too crowded on Atlantis). The biggest problem would be for the hardware - without people up there to keep maintenance tasks going, the station would need to be completely shutdown save for a few critical systems (attitude control, the NH4 cooling systems, power, etc.). In this case, some of those few critical systems are what seem to be giving the trouble.

      Evacuating ISS is always a last resort, because should something happen to it while unoccupied, it'd be a total loss. We won't have another shuttle ready for a month or so, and I believe the Russians just recently did a Soyuz exchange, so there'd be no quick return, even if the problems were fixed. With attitude control in question, it could become too unstable for even a shuttle or Soyuz docking to occur.
  • by X0563511 (793323) * on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:25AM (#19504205) Homepage Journal
    Really, does the fact that the computers are Russian matter? Broken software is broken software, and broken hardware is broken hardware.

    It's not like the Russians would send crappy stuff up to the ISS anyways, they would put all their best into it. And the Russians have a history of having some excellent mathematicians.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      American components, Russian Components, ALL MADE IN TAIWAN!
    • by jandrese (485)
      What do mathematicians have to do with this? It's an engineering problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Really, does the fact that the computers are Russian matter? Broken software is broken software, and broken hardware is broken hardware. It's not like the Russians would send crappy stuff up to the ISS anyways, they would put all their best into it. And the Russians have a history of having some excellent mathematicians.

      This [amazon.com] is an interesting read on this subject. The answer to your question is that the fact that the computers are Russian probably does matter.

      It's not that the Russian mathematicians ar

      • by khallow (566160)

        The answer to your question is that the fact that the computers are Russian probably does matter.

        Could you elaborate please on what you mean by it "probably does matter"? For the audience that doesn't have time to read Olberg today?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mnmn (145599)
      My thoughts exactly!

      After all Redmond is in USA.

      *ducks*
    • by jkerman (74317)
      good question, and yes! it does matter! as much as the space station is "international" its really only from an interoperability point of view. the russians built the russian segment, and the russians control the russian segment. they also refuse to use assets not 100% owned by them to do main guidance computer updates for their segment.

      eventually the plan is to have a fully redundant self sustaining russian AND united states attitude control, life support, communications etc etc. but the module with the
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      It's not like the Russians would send crappy stuff up to the ISS anyways, they would put all their best into it.

      The truth is sadly quite the opposite. For example, they installed an unmodified Elektron oxygen generation system - despite the fact that it had a long and less than stellar record when installed on Mir.
  • For reports on the INTERNATIONAL Space Station I find it really disturbing how much emphasis is placed on the failure of 'Russian' computers, and the ability of 'U.S.' equipment to save the day. It would show a lot more gut to report in a country neutral manner about the issue at hand.

    I wish all people up there (Astronauts and cosmonauts alike) the very best in fixing this problem.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Bert64 (520050)
      Lets not forget all the problems the american space shuttles have had recently, while the russian soyuz capsules have been working well for many years.
    • I don't disagree with you - the blatant nationalism gets kinda old -
      though a little engineering/science competitiveness certainly beats lobbing missiles at each other, right?

      I suspect the current mood also has something to do with the months of reading about the 'failure' of American space shuttles, and the saving grace of Russian resupply missions. Next year it'll be something about the failure of the German-built communications systems, and thank God for the British-built semaphore flags.
    • by Pyrion (525584)
      If it's the truth, then I have no problem with the gloating.
  • by TheOldSchooler (850678) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:27AM (#19504239)
    They're all made in Taiwan!!
  • (un)cooperation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ceroklis (1083863)

    Russian flight controllers plan to dedicate much of Thursday morning, when the ISS flies over Russian ground stations, to working through the computer issues.

    What does that mean ? That NASA doesn't relay communication to the russians so that they can start working on the problem right away ? Then they have more serious issues than a software error. The whole thing sounds like there is no real trust between the two agency. I understand that you want to give work to everybody and maybe keep some technology

    • by badfish99 (826052)
      If I were ever in a space station and a life support system failed, I would be very glad indeed if there were two life support systems and no coordination between them.
  • From TFA:

    "The lights, the fans and, thank God, the potty, all those things are working," Suffredini said.

    Well at least he has his priorities in order. God knows you don't want anyone looking into the Hubble to see the ISS going by with your ass hanging out of the window.
  • by RealErmine (621439) <commerce AT wordhole DOT net> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:38AM (#19504377)

    From the article: The computer failures have left the station without the use of its Russian attitude control

    I guess the liquor cabinet door in the ISS is computer controlled.

  • by djupedal (584558) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:40AM (#19504403)
    I've been waiting for this story to hit /. - didn't take long... I have to admit that using the ISS as an excuse to hide the real issue(s) and buy time is creative, tho :)

    When the shuttle launched last week, the headline quoting NASA was 'perfect launch'.

    Then, we heard this: "NASA says shuttle damage is not serious"

    Huh? I thought it was 'perfect'...?

    'NASA studies gap in shuttle's shields' - "not appearing to be an urgent problem" - "Other than that, the vehicle is very clean. NASA's Shannon said." http://msnbcmedia.msn.com/j/msnbc/Components/Photo s/070610/070610_tear_bcol_11a.standard.jpg [msn.com] - photo of hole/tear in thermal blanket

    "The first shuttle launch of the year helped put NASA back on track after a run of bad luck and scandal on the ground during the first half of the year."

    Next, we get this: "NASA checks into potential hit on shuttle"

    "Sensors on the shuttle Atlantis have recorded hits on the leading edges of the wings, around the area where Columbia suffered fatal damage four years ago, NASA officials said Tuesday. However, they emphasized that the hits probably did no damage to Atlantis."

    "What we have seen does not indicate that we have been hit by anything," NASA's Shannon said."

    Huh? Do we have a hit or not...? Shannon has quite the golden tongue.



    My point is that NASA always says "perfect launch", even when they are sitting on data that suggests damage or problems. And - here we go again.

    NASA does everything they can to shine up their process and actions to avoid even hints of trouble. They are more worried about bad press and how the public views their capabilities than they are for the short term. This story about a computer glitch on the ISS is a smokescreen to cover their asses while they try to fix whatever is wrong on the Shuttle. Hit or no hit, something is amiss.

    Sooner or later... Always ...the real information comes out and we find that something bad did indeed happen; they knew about it all along, and they were/are once again clueless as to how to deal with the situation, claiming the shuttle is sooooo complicated or sooooo old or soooo expensive, when all they really want to do is CYA.

    The mindset-climate at NASA has always been the same and always will be the same. Hubris.
    • Just for the record (Score:5, Interesting)

      by djupedal (584558) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:13AM (#19504901)
      For all those chucksters cracking wise about what a bucket of bolts the ISS is...

      The first piece of the space station was Zarya, the Russian control module that was launched into orbit November 20, 1998. A few weeks later, on December 4, 1998, the U.S. module Unity was launched into space. On December 7, 1998, the two modules were connected.

      That makes the ISS just over 8 years in service.

      How old is Atlantis?
      • Fourth orbiter to become operational
      • 01/29/79 Contract Awarded
      • 03/03/80 Started structural assembly of Crew Module
      • 04/10/84 Completed Final Assembly
      • 10/03/85 First Flight

      Space Shuttle Atlantis has completed 27 flights, spent 220.40-days in space, completed 3468 orbits, and flown 89908732 miles in total, as of September 2006. Atlantis visited visited MIR in 1997!

      Atlantis is 23 years old as of last April. 21 years in service. More than twice as old as the ISS.

      Now, tell again - which is the real bucket of bolts? ISS or Atlantis?
      • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:52AM (#19505469) Homepage Journal
        neither. They are completely different object for completely different tasks. Please don't compare them.
        The ISS has spent more time in continuous orbit and more time in space.

        So I guess that means...nothing really.
      • by s4m7 (519684)

        Now, tell again - which is the real bucket of bolts? ISS or Atlantis?
        The problem with ISS isn't its age, but one of pedigree. Currently, the station has major components from Russia, ESA, Canada, U.S., Italy and Japan. That's a lot of different tech to be cramming together into one bucket.
      • And Atlantis has made at least 27 trips to the repair depot along the way. How many times have they brought the ISS down to work on it?
    • This is an incredibly silly line of reasoning.

      First of all, every shuttle mission since Columbia has had a bunch of little problems reported by NASA. Remember when they did a spacewalk to pull out gap fillers? Remember freeze-frames showing foam impacts?

      So your first "point", that NASA always claims a perfect launch, is simply false. But besides that, the ISS problem is WAY more serious than your supposed shuttle wing impact conspiracy. If the ISS is abandoned due to this, and they can't fix this proble
      • '...shuttle wing impact conspiracy.'

        You're saying NASA faked the photo of the hole in the wing [msn.com]??? Oh...my bad :)
        Lord - If you're right, timmie, this could be the biggest thing since Bush had his USD$50 watch lifted by an Albanian pickpocket!!!

        Look, bud - you can call me a trans-gendered duck for all I care, but 'labeling' your target is weak debating at best, so unless you've got something more, you are only mildly entertaining - good for a few laughs. Very few.

        Thanks for taking a run at me Mr.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by kieranbenton (642814)
          You're an idiot. That's a peeled away thermal blanket on top of a carbon honeycomb structure.
    • A) they don't always say it was a perfect launch.
      B) When they do they are talking about the launch specific details. Firing of the rockets, attitude control, good roll, and ship control, to name the main points.

      So the problem here is you have no idea what they are talking about so you filled your ignorance in with wild ass theories handed to you by the monkeys living in your ass.

    • by Jugalator (259273)

      NASA does everything they can to shine up their process and actions to avoid even hints of trouble. They are more worried about bad press and how the public views their capabilities than they are for the short term. This story about a computer glitch on the ISS is a smokescreen to cover their asses while they try to fix whatever is wrong on the Shuttle. Hit or no hit, something is amiss.

      I'm not sure the English/Russian speaking engineer that I heard earlier during the first false smoke alarm due to a softwa

  • Two out of six computers in a reduntant system cannot be rebooted.
    From TFA:

    The station's Russian segment has a network of six primary computers, three for guidance and navigation and three for command and control, any one of which can handle the duties of its counterparts, Suffredini said, adding that only two were online early Wednesday.
    Big difference!
    • by tjw (27390)

      Two out of six computers in a reduntant system cannot be rebooted.

      From TFA:

      The station's Russian segment has a network of six primary computers, three for guidance and navigation and three for command and control, any one of which can handle the duties of its counterparts, Suffredini said, adding that only two were online early Wednesday.

      Big difference!

      I interpret this to mean the following:

      • There is 1 active guidance and navigation computer and 2 spares.
      • There is 1 active command and control computer and 2 spares.
      • Nobody has dared to try to bring up one of the spares yet because of the sudden simultaneous failure of BOTH active computers.
  • by rs232 (849320) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @08:53AM (#19504577)
    Hello, my name is Narinda and I am your technical support representitive, now just insert the recovery disk and call me back in two hours.

    Tech Support in Space [nasa.gov] ..
  • ISS getting ready for a new computer system

    Filed under: Desktops

    The International Space Station crew is doing some spring cleaning this week to get ready for an upcoming computer upgrade. Related and unrelated novelties include 10 times faster networking and a brand new window and camera combo which was installed last week ..

    http://www.engadget.com/2007/03/19/iss-getting-rea dy-for-a-new-computer-system/ [engadget.com]

    http://www.spacescan.org/entry/international-space -station-may-soon-get-computer-upgradations/ [spacescan.org]
  • It's probably graphite shavings from all those pencils the Russians use in space. They should use the billion-dollar space pen we developed! Go USA! (I think they really all use a china marker-type writing utensil anyhow)
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @09:18AM (#19504989)
    Many of NASA computers on spacecraft use a long-tested version of realtime UNIX called VxWorks from Charles River. It doesnt nexcessarily have the fancy stuff in modern *nix's, but is fairly reliable. Even that has been known to fail. The flash memory driver in the Martian Rovers had a bad free-list routine which shut them down for several weeks near the beginning of their mission after the flash memory filled up. A fix was uploaded. Flash memory was relatively new and hadnt been tested as much as the rest of the system.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by oopsilon (958290)

      Many of NASA computers on spacecraft use a long-tested version of realtime UNIX called VxWorks from Charles River. It doesnt nexcessarily have the fancy stuff in modern *nix's, but is fairly reliable. Even that has been known to fail.

      VxWorks isn't a UNIX, it is a real time operating system from Wind River [windriver.com]. Its has POSIX compliance in a decent number of areas so writing a thread / task is similar to programming for UNIX, but it can be quite a different beast when it comes to actually running the software.

  • Is abandon ship and let it crash and burn? Yeah I'd say that's a worst case scenario. Thanks for the tip Captain Obvious.
  • by SirBruce (679714) on Thursday June 14, 2007 @10:21AM (#19505879) Homepage
    All the russian computers are down again. There is a suspicion that the magnetic field generated by the new solar rays is interfering with their operation. If that's true then the ISS is in a bit of a pickle, since without the new solar arrays there's no power for the additional science modules that need to be added to the ISS, which means no need to fly the shuttle (or anything else) there anymore. Disconnecting the power from the new arrays may allow the computers to operate, but you're left with an ISS that close to useless.

    If disconnecting the power doesn't fix them problem, then the situation is even worse... the station will have to be evacuated next Wednesday, and would no longer have attitude control. It is likely that it would tumble out of control before any new mission could be made, making it impossible to dock the the ISS and probably resulting in its eventual re-entry.

    Things are not looking good.
  • So, do you suppose that somewhere, someone as a test environment on Earth, where they can test how components will interact on ISS before we spend millions of dollars to send it up there? A little investment on the front end could save us money on the back end with issues like this, I would think.

    And hey, I'm all for NASA and having an orbital station. But a little common sense could go a long way. (Yeah, I know there were probably lots of engineers who wanted a test bed, but an administrator/politician
    • So, do you suppose that somewhere, someone as a test environment on Earth, where they can test how components will interact on ISS before we spend millions of dollars to send it up there? A little investment on the front end could save us money on the back end with issues like this, I would think.

      And hey, I'm all for NASA and having an orbital station. But a little common sense could go a long way. (Yeah, I know there were probably lots of engineers who wanted a test bed, but an administrator/politician nix'd it.) :-/

      To be fair, it might be a situation that is difficult to recreate on Earth. I'm not saying that's the case, I'm just saying that's not outlandish.

Physician: One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well. -- Ambrose Bierce

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