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Space Science

Why ISS Computers Failed 324

Posted by kdawson
from the triply-redundant-is-not-foolproof dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes "It was only a small news item four months ago: all three of the Russian computers that control the International Space Station failed shortly after the Space Shuttle brought up a new solar array. But why did they fail? James Oberg, writing in IEEE Spectrum, details the detective work that led to a diagnosis." The article has good insights into the role the ISS plays as a laboratory for US-Russian technology cooperation — something that is likely to be crucial in any manned Mars mission.
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Why ISS Computers Failed

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  • by Rebelgecko (893016) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:06AM (#20991565)
    They "upgraded" to Vista.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @02:42AM (#20992041)
      Clippy: It looks like you want to install a new solar array. Do you want help with that?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420)
      You mean "downgraded" right?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CastrTroy (595695)
      Which is funny, because I read this as "Why IIS Computers Failed".
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:08AM (#20991569) Journal
    Metric electricity vs Imperial electricity...
  • Urgh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Airconditioning (639167) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:12AM (#20991589) Journal
    The article reeked of condesension towards the Russians. It's no way to report on your partners in space.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      If Leo Strauss taught us anything, and I think he has, it is that the Russians are to be blamed whether they deserve it or not.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Yeah but I don't know if the thoughts of a guy who made jeans really applies to this situation.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jamstar7 (694492)
          You're thinking Levi Strauss. Leo Strauss was the inspiration for the NeoCon movement.
    • Re:Urgh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:24AM (#20991661) Journal

      For a split second, I thought you said it reeked of condensation towards the Russians.

      • Yeah, I had actually freudian typo'd that and caught it in preview. But I figured it was just a little bit too cheesy to let that one through.

        Though someone seems to have modded me funny anyway... life goes on.
    • Re:Urgh. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jugalator (259273) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @02:54AM (#20992109) Journal
      I agree... That's what first came to mind after having watched this incident unfold live. What he fails to mention is that the Russian engineers were always open to suggestions and they cooperated pretty well when they needed to discuss the problems. The Russians were also working nearly 24/7 on trying to find and resolve the problems and come up with theories before they were running out of time. The article makes it sound like they early on got locked into "blaming the Americans" or something. It was merely one theory that was tossed around and discussed, and diagnosed early on. If there seem to be a power failure (which it ended up being all about), surely one logically suspected culprit could be a power feed problem?
    • Re:Urgh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @03:04AM (#20992151)
      Yup. OK, it's a design flaw. We have been, and still are, capable of doing things just as bad, if not far worse. Look at the Shuttle fiascos.

      This item is hugely biased. It looks to me like a simple case of corrosion, which could easily have been patched up if it happened on a Mars flight. The engineers and crew all seemed to work well together, and the Russians were the ones who sorted the problem.

      I don't know if the Russian Program Managers got all political against us, but the item, written by a retired NASA manager, sure as hell gets political against the Russians. He's right in one thing - the managers need to stop getting political, and I suggest he starts with himself!

      It's just as well he's retired - looks like he's fighting long lost battles against cooperation with the Russians and Europeans.
      • Re:Urgh. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmail. c o m> on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @04:02PM (#21000861) Homepage

        I don't know if the Russian Program Managers got all political against us, but the item, written by a retired NASA manager, sure as hell gets political against the Russians.

        When you follow the space progam/ISS day in and day out, rather than relying on the all to infrequent Slashdot coverage... you soon see why. Again and again when something goes wrong, the Russians first (publically) announced 'theory' is that the problem is 'the Americans fault'. Only months later, if ever, does the truth come out. There are a couple of failures from the early flights of the current Soyuz version that were publically blamed on the Americans - that the Russians have yet to disclose the real cause of. The Russians have a long habit of being less than candid when it comes to their space program, and NASA has gone right along with them in covering up safety and performance issues with MIR, Soyuz, and the ISS.
         
         

        This item is hugely biased. It looks to me like a simple case of corrosion, which could easily have been patched up if it happened on a Mars flight.

        Sure, this one failure could have been patched up - but this is only the latest in a long series of failures caused by poor design and manufacture of the Russian segments of the ISS. Failures nowhere matched on the US side. Failures consistently blamed on the US by the Russians. While both NASA and the Russians are publically praising the performance of the Russian hardware.
         
        It's not just about the Russians.
         
         

        It's just as well he's retired - looks like he's fighting long lost battles against cooperation with the Russians and Europeans.

        It may seem that way to somebody unfamiliar with the backstory and history. (I.E. pretty much every Slashdot commentator so far.)
         
        [rant]The Slashdot hivemind frustrates the hell out of me when it comes to space issues. Too damm few bother to actually read and keep up with the field, and fewer still know much about the history.[/rant]
    • Re:Urgh. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @04:10AM (#20992481) Homepage Journal
      Hell yeah. Mod parent up. The real heroes are in space cooperating and solving problems.
      Seriously, all of that political cold war-era cockwaving should stop.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Seriously, all of that political cold war-era cockwaving should stop.
        Given that we are clearly moving into another cold war period, why would it?
    • Re:Urgh. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by JoelKatz (46478) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @06:58AM (#20993167)
      Absolutely.

      "It is dismaying that after decades of experience with manned space stations, Russian space engineers still couldn't keep unwanted condensation at bay."

      That's a bunch of crap. That's like saying it's dismaying that McDonald's has served billions of burgers and still can't figure out how to make them healthy.

      Condensation is "still" a problem because it's one of the big and tricky ones. To get rid of the condensation, you have to get rid of the people.
  • by Cyberax (705495) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:15AM (#20991601)

    ...They also decided to rig a thermal barrier out of a surplus reference book and all-purpose gray tape....


    Once again, duct tape saves the day! :)
    • by RuBLed (995686)

      ...They also decided to rig a thermal barrier out of a surplus reference book and all-purpose gray tape....
      Hmmm.. A "surplus" reference book of what... I know they're on budget but...
    • by p00n0s (1117823) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @03:21AM (#20992247)
      A person needs only three tools in life: WD-40, duct tape and a hammer. If it doesn't move and it should, use the WD-40. If it moves and it shouldn't, use the duct tape. If either doesn't work, use the hammer.
  • Hmmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by K.os023 (1093385) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:15AM (#20991603)
    Could this be the one place where it would be appropriate to mention that in Russia, crashes compute?


    Or would that be "In Russia, crashes compute you!" ?
  • Duct Tape (Score:5, Insightful)

    by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:17AM (#20991611) Journal

    They also decided to rig a thermal barrier out of a surplus reference book and all-purpose gray tape

    Almost certainly, this was the duct tape we all know and love. They probably thought it was better not to actually say that, though. Pretty funny. And as an added side-benefit, they should be safe from terrorists.

    • by arivanov (12034)
      Duct tape is like the Force, it has a Light side, a Dark side and it binds the Universe together
  • by quanticle (843097) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:19AM (#20991623) Homepage

    I think NASA should have learned this lesson by now. After all, the Challenger disaster showed this principle as well. In that case, the same cold temperature that weakened the primary seal on the solid rocket booster weakened the secondary as well, sapping its ability to provide redundant backup. In this case, the same condensation affected all three computers equally.

    Its troubling to see them taking shortcuts on safety and redundancy, when such measures have resulted in loss of life before. How hard would it have been to have had three shut-off cables?

    • by 8-bitDesigner (980672) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:39AM (#20991731) Homepage
      Two nit-picky points here:
      1. It wasn't condensation that felled all three computers, it was a single corroded connector, which shorted and sent a kill-command to all three computers. Technically, redundancy here would've circumvented that issue.
      2. Actually, I believe the article stated that it was a Russian-manufactured component, not a NASA design.
    • Actually chief - what happened was that the surge detector got wanged by the condensation and so sent a "oh noes switch off now" to all three computers. Hence why the bypass cable worked. The problem in the design was that there was a way to kill all three at once which should have been impossible.
    • by Detritus (11846)
      It was a Russian subsystem that failed, so don't instinctively crap on NASA for every problem in the world. That said, reliability engineering is a complex subject. It involves a lot of modeling and analysis. It isn't reducible to a few simple rules. If you think the solution is obvious, you don't understand the problem.
    • Redundancy can equal safety and reliability, but all of the components designed to be redundant should all actually have different designs so that they have differing modes of failure. So, in the Challenger case, were the seals designed differently, they wouldn't have had the same failure mode for a given exposure.

      To do this really well though, requires risk management software that I am not sure even exists. You'd have to simulate everything. The devil, as happened to Challenger, is that, there are so m
    • by khallow (566160) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @02:39AM (#20992027)

      Its troubling to see them taking shortcuts on safety and redundancy, when such measures have resulted in loss of life before. How hard would it have been to have had three shut-off cables?

      At first, I was nodding in agreement. But then I realized, how do you find out when you've built in hidden single points of failure? Everyone knows that a single point of failure is bad. Hence, the ones that get into a space station weren't intended (or were due to shoddy work). One way to find them is to use the equipment in a real situation and vet it when it breaks. Exactly what they did. Now that they know this is a problem, they can fix it.
  • by cioxx (456323) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:22AM (#20991651) Homepage
    Look people, I can see that ISS personnel are really upset about this. I honestly think they ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over. I know the computers had made some very poor decisions recently, but they can give explorers their complete assurance that the work will be back to normal. These machines still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And they want to help.
  • in soviet russia, the computer crashes you!
    • by bky1701 (979071)
      No! You just applied Russian Reversal in a way that (almost) makes sense! *Goes out and acts as if the world is about to end.*
  • I tried to use Google translate to put this in Russian, but Slashdot didn't want to let me cut-'n-paste it in.

    Comrade Dave: Open ze Pod Bay Doors, HAL.
    Comrade HAL: Nyet Comrade Dave, I cannot do that.

    I wonder how you sing "Daisy Daisy" in Russian?
    • by arivanov (12034) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @02:22AM (#20991953) Homepage
      Slashdot didn't want to let me cut-'n-paste it in.

      Nope it does not. I guess I will have to put that in phonetic transcription:

      Tovarish Dave: Otkroj luk skotina.
      Tovarish HAL: Pshel na huj

      I wonder how you sing "Daisy Daisy" in Russian?

      Margaritka, margaritka pshla na huj

      That is modern Russian, the wonderful language of Pushkin and Chehov may slightly differ..

  • The truth is, that MOST of this equipment will be copied or 1 offs for any lunar or trans-planetary mission. The ISS allows for true testing of it all. So far, MOST of the equipment has done a pretty good job. But it is good to know EXACTLY where it will fail.
  • Am I reading the article correctly? Humidity caused the connections to go bad from rust? IIRC, the off the shelf ISA cards and RAM I used to get with my (now) ancient computers were gold plated.

    Couldn't the ISS with it's multi billion dollar cost use contacts and cables that can't rust? Gold for contact points, aluminum for the bulk cable?

    Heck, given the costs involved, it'd barely be a rounding error in the budget to use solid gold cables. One tonne of gold at $700 per ounce is about $25 million. Not
  • It's interesting that the problem eventually was a hardware problem. I suppose military designers, used to working in tight spaces and different environments, might have anticipated the problem (a submarine and a space station are probably more simlar that we'd think). For 'normal' designers, humidity isn't something that's considered an issue.

    This'll get worse and worse as exploration goes farther and farther afield. Even little things like mold, dust, and the black gunk that piles up on the bottom of a mo
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by WindBourne (631190)
      Russia has shown that they do not consider humidity to be an issue. In particular, the MIR was all but finished because it had mold everywhere.

      Russia taught us a lot about space construction and staying alive in a space station. But likewise, we have also done the same. But it is obvious that there is room for more growth.
  • by dd1968 (1174479) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:50AM (#20991791)
    These computers functioned for months or years. When they failed, the right question to ask first was "what has changed?" This is exactly what the Russians did. According to the author the Russians first considered potential causes stemming from the newly installed solar power wing, the visiting shuttle, and the expanded station structure (the reason for the shuttle being there). One conclusion is that they were pointing the finger at NASA and playing the blame game. Another is that they were doing what good engineers anywhere would do to debug the problem.

    The author is obviously way more qualified than I to assess the situation and he may well be right but from the content of the article I came away thinking, wow, I would have looked first at all the recent changes to the station and the power supply too.

    • Cascading failures (Score:2, Interesting)

      by j-stroy (640921)
      True, as a starting point.. Tho, failures tend to be things that snowball. Its sort of an anthropic principle [wikipedia.org] of failures. ie Bad things happened because failures were happening.
      I have always tried to learn from air crash investigations and so on how failure modes develop. In problem solving mode, it seems one should assume the distinct possibility of multiple problems all at once.
      In this case, multiple failure paths existed, tho it took a power spike to set it off as I interpretted it. Even without co
    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @02:23AM (#20991959) Homepage
      I see you have never dealt with Russians. The ones in their space program are especially tetchy about taking ANY blame whatsoever. Their equipment is always perfect, and the foreign equipment MUST be the problem. You know, how when there's a problem, you kind of step back for a second and analyze the entire situation? That's what NASA does. The Russians merely blame the first thing they can think of. Then, when that's disproven, they have a lot of other proposed explanations, none of which involve the failure of Russian equipment. It's even worse when there is a semi-plausible event like the new solar panel.

      Look, the Russians as people are all right. But their management in the space program is obsessed with face. They feel that admitting any faults demeans the Russian nation and the Russian people. You can laugh but that's how it is.

      • by bluephone (200451)
        It doesn't help that their space agency grew up under Soviet rule, where failure was both inevitable and severely punished. It bred a culture worse than any that ever existed at NASA.
      • by giafly (926567) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @04:33AM (#20992579)

        I see you have never dealt with Russians. The ones in their space program are especially tetchy about taking ANY blame whatsoever. Their equipment is always perfect, and the foreign equipment MUST be the problem.
        I see you have never worked in the computer industry, if you think this mindset is unique to Russians. Actually it is universal.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rs79 (71822)
      Uh yeah. The detective work here involved finding some wet connectors. And it didn't sound that complicated to me.

      Try debugging the electrics on an 80s BMW some time. The manual for the door locks is 3 pages thick.

      Hint: fuse 11 is not your friend.
  • by JustShootMe (122551) * <rmiller@duskglow.com> on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @01:53AM (#20991803) Homepage Journal
    That for all of the controls and quality control required of mission critical hardware such as this, it still comes down to:

    1) unexpected failure modes
    2) political battles

    Which really isn't a whole lot different than 1) the unexpected failure modes I see every day at work, and 2) the political wrangling (fingerpointing) that takes place when they happen. Apparently NASA and its Russian equivalent are no better than any old software company.

    The lesson being, people are people, and people are still the ones that design these things.
  • Power off command (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jsse (254124) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @02:01AM (#20991847) Homepage Journal

    Also, in a shocking design flaw, there was a "power off" command leading to all three of the supposedly redundant processing units.
    That reminds me many years ago, when my friend worked as a programmer in a major bank writing small programs for an online international financial system. He issued an 'shutdown' command through JCL(Job Control Language) and that really shutdown the entire system. He didn't realize he had the privilege to issue administration commands. Instead of reporting the crisis to his manager, he hide away until someone figured out what's going on. Needless to say, my friend was fired.

    Years later I met his manager, he told me that my friend could have been promoted for discovering one of the biggest loophole ever in the bank's history, if he had reported the problem immediately. Though the unexpected shutdown caused considerable damage, it could have saved billions from real break-in with this loophole.

    That's a lesson that every engineer should have been learned. :)
  • Jingoism (Score:2, Insightful)

    by QuickFox (311231)
    FTA:

    It is dismaying that after decades of experience with manned space stations, Russian space engineers still couldn't keep unwanted condensation at bay. But what's worse is that they designed circuitry that would allow one spot of corrosion to fell a supposedly triply redundant control computer complex.

    I find it more dismaying that an otherwise seemingly adult and mature article writer feels such an urge to childishly emphasize blame. What is it with this childish American and Russian jingoism? If blame is so important, can't you people at least blame the engineers and not the nationality?

    • Where was the jingoism? The Russians designed a "triple redundant" system with a single point of failure. In addition, it failed because it got wet and moldy. When the failure happened, the Russians pointed the finger everywhere but themselves.
      • by QuickFox (311231)

        When the failure happened, the Russians pointed the finger everywhere but themselves.

        The Russians showed jingoism by pointing fingers at NASA, and the article author does the same kind of jingoistic finger-pointing in return. Childish on both sides.

        Nobody is perfect. No need to point fingers. Just learn and move on. Like grown-ups.

        Judging from the comments, the Slashdot crowd seems more mature than these people. That's rather surprising considering the trolls and other children we have here.

    • I find it more dismaying that an otherwise seemingly adult and mature article writer feels such an urge to childishly emphasize blame. What is it with this childish American and Russian jingoism? If blame is so important, can't you people at least blame the engineers and not the nationality?

      There is a lot of history behind this.

      The Americans and the Russians have always taken very different approaches to dealing with safety engineering in space. The Russians have typically taken an empirical, "what me wo

  • I hope they don't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @02:11AM (#20991897)

    The article has good insights into the role the ISS plays as a laboratory for US-Russian technology cooperation -- something that is likely to be crucial in any manned Mars mission.

    No offense to Russia or the US, both who produce good space gear, but technology cooperation is probably a bad idea unless it is tested more thoroughly than in the ISS. The ISS is a great example of how to screw up international cooperation. The station has been delayed for more than a decade (and cost NASA around $50 billion so far) due to redesign and indecision, reliance on a single launch vehicle for key components (the Shuttle), and the inclusion of the Russians. There are parts of the station that can only communicate with the Russians and parts that can only communicate with NASA. Aside from basic utility hookup (electricity), there's no connection between the different parties on the ISS (at least between the Russians and NASA, the ESA and Japanese parts might work better with NASA's stuff). And if you want to make changes that affect more than one party, it becomes by default an international issue. Finally, there's no easy way to transfer ownership. NASA's communication system is integral (TDRSS [wikipedia.org]) to the NASA parts and is also a national secret (so I understand). So the communication system can't be transfered to another party like the Russians or the ESA.

    If there's any international cooperation between space agencies, it probably should be at a rather trivial and manageable level. Say including foreign astronauts or using off the shelf equipment that is know to work under the circumstances.

    • by QuickFox (311231)

      but technology cooperation is probably a bad idea unless it is tested more thoroughly than in the ISS.
      That's exactly what they're doing. That's the point of the ISS. Or rather one of the points.

      The only way you can test is by doing. They're running the very test you're asking for.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160)
        Actually, they're feeding the NASA supply chain. For the money NASA spent on the ISS, they could have built 3-5 ISS's, maybe more if they eliminated the dependency on the Shuttle and used Titan IV's instead. This little bit of testing came at a very high price.
    • "The station has been delayed for more than a decade (and cost NASA around $50 billion so far) due to redesign and indecision, reliance on a single launch vehicle for key components (the Shuttle), and the inclusion of the Russians."

      This is one of the most self-contradictory sentences I've read for quite some time. Because of the inclusion of the Russians, the ISS
      does not rely on a single launch vehicle! Which craft was sending astronauts and supplies when all the shuttles for grounded for years after
      the Col
      • "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_manned_spaceflights_to_the_ISS"

        Notice missions 22-26, from 2003 to 2005? Notice that Soyuz made more than half the flights to ISS?
        Now please, so some respect for the noble efforts of the seriously underfunded Russian space program...
  • I find that the first, and most important, thing to do in any catastrophe is "Assign Blame".

    Cause you never know exactly how bad it's gonna get.

    BBH
  • Someone used their cell phone while the pilot had the fasten seatbelt sign turned on.
  • Here we go again... (Score:5, Informative)

    by LanceUppercut (766964) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @03:01AM (#20992137)
    Well, well, well... Here we go again. Jim Oberg. That same Jim Oberg who was almost blowing his gasket a couple of weeks ago when that journalist was asking him questions about alcohol abuse by astronauts (you all remember the story, I'm sure). It was all preposterous nonsense not backed up by any evidence, he said, berely keeping his cool. And what do we see now? He is happily making up stories about Russians accusing US of the computer falures - something that never happened in reality. The power problems caused by some new US installations were indeed considered as intermediate working brainstormed versions of what could have happened. But nobody ever did any fingerpointing or made any acussations before the situation was sufficiently researched and the root cause determined. Of course, Jim Oberg could not refreain from distorting the truth "just a little". Tsk, tsk, tsk... Note, how he refers to the hypothesis as both "blatant finger pointing" and just "guesses" within single paragraph - just to keep his article a little fuzzy, so that he can flip-flop to either when the situation calls for it. Nothing surprising here, though...
  • by hazard (2541) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @03:02AM (#20992145)
    The article is misleading. The computers are not actually of Russian make, they were supplied to Russians by Europeans (EADS). See here [softpedia.com].
  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @03:11AM (#20992195)
    I had an 89' Nissan Pathfinder and it had factory wiring harness connectors to ALL of the various electrical connections which were water-tight with one or more ribbed red silicone gaskets.
    The connectors were not always easy to disconnect, however, after 177,000 miles and 11 years of original ownership, I never found any corrosion inside any one of them I ever disconnected for service.
    Additionally, the male/female electrical contacts within the sealed connectors appeared to be made from a tinned Copper and/or Brass metal. This is important to note, as Brass, and to a much larger extent, Copper, have ELECTRICALLY CONDUCTIVE oxide states (as surface corrosion by moisture and/or other aqueous solvents).
    In other words, you corrode a Copper or Brass metal electrical connector, and it will still conduct electricity just fine. It may degrade certain frequencies of network/data signaling and alter the dB loss and impedance, but it will still conduct.
    This is another reason why the top-post Nissan main battery terminal connectors for this vehicle were made from a Copper/Brass strap instead of a traditional Lead connector.
    Lead oxide powders (as found on many old standard Lead top-post automotive battery terminals) are not effective electrical conductors (as anyone who has wiggled/cleaned a corroded connection to allow their car to start could attest).
    Why did the design/production Engineers for the ISS not utilize Gold Plated Watertight industry standard (ISO, etc) wiring interconnects? (Even cheap RJ-45 connectors have gold-plated pins)
    -That is the REAL Question.
  • Wiring corrosion? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @03:17AM (#20992227) Homepage

    I'm surprised that connector corrosion would be a problem. Aviation has a long history of wire problems [etsu.edu], but gold-plating connectors seems to be a stable solution to that problem. The ISS uses Kapton wire, which was popular in the 1980s and is lightweight and tough. But that material is hygroscopic and now banned by the USAF, US Navy, Boeing, etc. "Susceptible to aging in that it dries out forming hairline cracks which can lead to micro current leakage (i.e. electrical 'ticking' faults)"

    There are ways to do corrosion-resistant contacts without precious metals; the automotive industry has solved this problem. The alloys aren't simple; here's one used for under-hood automotive connectors. [olinbrass.com] Copper, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus, with upper limits on tin, zinc, nickel, lead, and manganese. But avionics connectors are usually gold plated; it doesn't add that much cost. And Russia is a major exporter of gold.

    The article doesn't go far enough. OK, the connectors corroded. Why? Wrong alloy? Plating failure? Wear from too many connector insertions? Was the spec wrong, or were the cables not made to spec?

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