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Space Station Computers Partially Restored 158

Posted by Zonk
from the i'd-like-to-see-geek-squad-get-up-there dept.
Raver32 writes with the news that a partial restoration of computer control was established on the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday. Systems controlling critical elements like navigation and life-support failed on Wednesday. "Flight controllers were able to re-establish some communication with the computers overnight, with Russian engineers working Thursday to restore the rest of the system, NASA space station flight director Holly Ridings said. The U.S. space agency and Russian officials are still trying to determine the cause of a failure affecting multiple computers in the Russian network ... Since an earlier failure on Monday, thrusters on the space shuttle Atlantis have been fired periodically to help maintain the station's position. The Russian and U.S. space agencies said they could extend Atlantis's mission by one or two days to fix the problem. In the worst-case scenario, NASA said the ISS crew members -- two Russians and an American -- may be evacuated from the station."
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Space Station Computers Partially Restored

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  • OLD OLD news (Score:5, Informative)

    by Profane MuthaFucka (574406) * <busheatskok@gmail.com> on Friday June 15, 2007 @04:18PM (#19524031) Homepage Journal
    The computers are dead, not half alive as previously reported.

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2007-06 -15-spacewalk-three_N.htm [usatoday.com]
  • by simos (84652) on Friday June 15, 2007 @04:38PM (#19524325) Homepage
    MOSCOW, June 15 (Itar-Tass) -- A fivefold over-voltage resultant from the unfolding of extra U.S. solar batteries caused a computer failure at the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), a source at the Energia Aerospace Corporation told Itar-Tass on Friday.

    "The power units of six computers of the Russian segment had a breakdown because of the over-voltage. The American partners unfolded new solar batteries on June 11," the source said.

    The German-made computers withstood the 2.5-time over-voltage last September, when the first segments of solar batteries were unfolded. The June 11 over-voltage hit the computers hard, he said.

    While experts are trying to reanimate the computers, new power units will be delivered to the ISS onboard a Progress freighter, Energia General Director Nikolai Sevastyanov told a Friday press conference. He said the new power units would be better protected.

    The Progress will be launched two weeks earlier than planned because of the ISS situation. Initially, the launch was scheduled for August 6. The U.S. segment of the ISS will provide for the station's orientation in the meantime, and engines of the docked Progress will be used if necessary.

    The ISS crew evacuation is not on the agenda, although a relevant plan has been drafted. Some of the computers of the Russian segment are still operational.

    Source: http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=11 633186&PageNum=0 [itar-tass.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2007 @04:43PM (#19524419)
    This is still a dynamic situation. Moscow only has line-of-sight communications with the ISS, so their interaction with the on-board computer system is limited to certain time windows. Over the last few days, the ISS computers have been going flaky, on and off. Since this article was written, they've completely died. However, as of a few minutes ago, they have successfully booted 2 out of 3 lanes in the terminal system, which is way more progress than they've been making previously. Just prior, they disconnected a power cable which extends to where the next solar panel array will be installed. This may have been the source of the problem, as the computers started acting up right around the time the cable was initially connected. If you're more interested in up-to-date information regarding the situation, don't turn to CBS. Try www.spaceflightnow.com (realtime updates).
  • by cmowire (254489) on Friday June 15, 2007 @04:44PM (#19524423) Homepage
    In the early days (Space Station Freedom) they figured that if anything bad happened, they'd just send up another shuttle to rescue them, so the nodes were designed as secure refuges for the several-day wait for the next shuttle to show up.

    Eventually NASA realized that wouldn't work, so they went through a series of different designs. Initially, they were going to dust-off the Apollo Capsule design and use that. Then they got creative.

    The design, as specced when they started launching, was to put a lifting body capsule specifically designed for the purpose. Until it was ready, they'd just use Soyuz capsules.

    Then the special purpose vehicle became a general purpose vehicle, so that they didn't have to worry about the shuttle nearly as much.

    Then the Columbia blew up and the general purpose vehicle became our last best hope for a space program, but as a dusted-off Apollo Capsule instead of a fancy lifting body.

    Now, they just dock a single Soyuz capsule. Eventually they will have a pair of Soyuz capsules docked. Which is fine, it's just that the Russians have a habit of abusing their position whenever they are the only way up and down from the ISS.

    Also, note that if the goal is to get somebody *down* from orbit, it isn't too hard. A heat-shield, a space-suit, a nitrogen-gas thruster, and a parachute. Maybe a cheezy visual alignment aid to get the thruster in the right point and a map to make sure you land on land. A few hundered pounds of hardware, per person. The problem has always been feature-creep more than anything else.
  • Crash and Burn (Score:2, Informative)

    by Howitzer86 (964585) on Friday June 15, 2007 @04:53PM (#19524575)
    Watch, as all your tax dollars go down the drain.

    Assuming the computers cannot be restarted in a day or two, the shuttle and station crew will have to depart. Without those computers, the station will be put in an ever increasing spin due to tidal forces. Once the shuttle leaves, it will never be able to dock with the station again.

    Eventually, the orbit will decay and cause the station to enter an uncontrolled reentry. By uncontrolled I mean hundreds of tons of flaming white hot metal could end up crashing in a heavily populated area.

    I hope it doesn't, but you never know.
  • Re:OLD OLD news (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 15, 2007 @04:55PM (#19524607)
    "...the gyroscopes aren't powerful enough to keep the station from drifting out of control when other spacecraft dock to the station or undock from it. Space shuttle Atlantis was already docked to the station when the computer problems began. Atlantis' jet thrusters can serve as a backup to the gyroscopes as long as the shuttle remains parked at the station. But Atlantis must depart no later than Wednesday or it will run out of fuel. Atlantis' departure itself would be too much of a disturbance for the gyroscopes to handle." Yes, the ISS has gyros, albeit ones that - for all intents and purposes - don't work. The second Atlantis leaves, should the thrusters from The Soyuz and The Progress not be sufficient to stabilize the ISS, it's a goner.
  • by compro01 (777531) on Friday June 15, 2007 @04:56PM (#19524609)
    Also, note that if the goal is to get somebody *down* from orbit, it isn't too hard. A heat-shield, a space-suit, a nitrogen-gas thruster, and a parachute. Maybe a cheezy visual alignment aid to get the thruster in the right point and a map to make sure you land on land. A few hundered pounds of hardware, per person. The problem has always been feature-creep more than anything else.

    they're actually working on that. there was an interesting article in popsci in the latest issue. they're planning to have the first actual jump-from-orbit test by 2009.
  • Closer to solved? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Boilermaker84 (896573) on Friday June 15, 2007 @06:10PM (#19525633)
    Spaceflightnow.com (http://www.spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts117/0706 14computers/index7.html [spaceflightnow.com]) is reporting that bypassing a suspect power supply (does not indicate what the power supply is/if it's related to the new panels or not) resulted in 4 of the 6 computers coming back up and restoration of 2 of the 3 guidance lanes.
  • Re:OLD OLD news (Score:2, Informative)

    by jae471 (1102461) on Friday June 15, 2007 @07:51PM (#19526983) Journal
    The repair will be to a section that is not critical for re-entry. This repair is prevent 6 months of repairs on the engine, not prevent catastrophic failure upon re-entry.

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."

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