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NASA Bug Network Space Science Technology

Kepler Recovers After 144 Hour "Glitch" 73

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the hate-when-that-happens dept.
coondoggie writes "There was likely a pretty big sigh of relief at NASA's Ames Research Center this week as the group's star satellite Kepler recovered from a glitch that took it offline for 144 hours. According to NASA the glitch happened March 14, right after the spacecraft issued a network interface card (NIC) reset command to implement a computer program update. During the reset, the NIC sent invalid reaction wheel data to the flight software, which caused the spacecraft to enter safe mode, NASA stated."
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Kepler Recovers After 144 Hour "Glitch"

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  • by aardwolf64 (160070) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:56PM (#35579700) Homepage

    Alright, who hit F8 while it was booting up???

  • by Cinder6 (894572)

    Betcha whoever hit F12 during POST got fired.

  • by flydpnkrtn (114575) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @04:58PM (#35579718)

    You need safe mode with networking, not just plain old "Safe Mode" guys!

    • It's not like this stuff is rocket science.

      Oh, wait.
      • by Kjella (173770)

        A rocket scientist would probably say it's not, not since the launch in 2009. And the people who built and operate the satellite probably know very little about rockets...

        • by Urkki (668283)

          A rocket scientist would probably say it's not, not since the launch in 2009. And the people who built and operate the satellite probably know very little about rockets...

          A satellite does very little without rockets (and gyroscopes count as rockets for purpose of "rocket science", since they interact with rockets).

        • by elrous0 (869638) *

          That's how playing D&D taught me a little something about courage.

  • by Manos_Of_Fate (1092793) <link226@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:03PM (#35579782)
    Did they try turning it off and then on again?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    TFA makes it sound like it wasn't really down. "During recovery actions, NASA's Deep Space Network was used to downlink telemetry and began recovery of files to help engineers figure out what happened".

    TFA fails to explain why the process took 6 days. If I had to guess I'd say the humans spent almost a full week analyzing the data they downloaded, and making sure it was ready to go back online.

    It doesn't sound like it actually lost contact during the 6 days. TFA fails at a journalistic basic. They have

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Well yes. Safe Mode wouldn't be very useful if you couldn't communicate with the satellite to figure out what went wrong and fix it.

      • by v1 (525388) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:06PM (#35581128) Homepage Journal

        From what I've read nasa does some pretty thorough planning with their spacecraft software in terms of being able to recover from faults. (leave the units issues for another thread, eh?) I'm always impressed with how they have multiple fallback points that can usually dig them out of almost any hole bad programming, bad planning, or a stray cosmic ray can drop them into.

        Look up the mars rovers, with their flash memory filling up, that in itself was amazing that they were able to recover from, given the crippling effect the programming oversight had on the system. (those iirc had to drop down three levels of safe before they were able to work with nasa) When you're millions of miles away you can't just send a tech out to press the Reset button.

        And they have to not only get it back into a controllable state, but it has to be able to stay in that state for anywhere from minutes to days due to the time required for communication and analysis. If there's a fault in the solar panel positioning system your craft has to stay functional long enough to collect useful data, transmit it, wait for it to make it to earth, wait for it to be analyzed, and wait for a command to fix the problem, OR has to be able to at least patch it on its own before waiting for a proper fix. Amazing stuff really. It's not A.I. by any means, but it's definitely robust.

        • Truly they do (for the most part) but the "feet/meters" controversy and the "log files" on the Mars Rover (how long was it to get a command to the rover and a response back?) get all the press. Mistakes happen, and considering the stuff they're doing, I don't see them being a bunch of pencil-necked screw-ups drinking beer while counting down for launch. :)

        • by Coren22 (1625475)

          Look up the mars rovers, with their flash memory filling up, that in itself was amazing that they were able to recover from, given the crippling effect the programming oversight had on the system.

          Can you imagine typing the command to fix that? I see it much like a ssh connection through a satellite, you type, and 20 minutes later you see the command pop up on the terminal.

          • by v1 (525388)

            the time lag varies depending on the position of the planets, but I've heard 13-15 minutes is a common number for one way travel. So ya, that's a 30 minute ping time.

            It's no wonder they're developing a network protocol for space.

    • by Brett Buck (811747) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:43PM (#35581410)

      "Down/offline", meaning not performing the science mission, NOT, unreachable with no telemetry.

           

    • by quanticle (843097)

      That's the impression I got too. There was a glitch in the update; the satellite went into safe mode; NASA analyzed and fixed the issue, and now all's well again. Certainly, not the ideal scenario, but things could have gone much more badly.

  • by ravenspear (756059) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:05PM (#35579812)

    Another 3 hours and it would have had to cut off its arm to get back online.

  • This is the first sign of the upcoming invasion in 2012. Our satellites are being "tested". ;-)

  • by Veggiesama (1203068) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:12PM (#35579894)

    You got to release and RENEW, not just release.

  • Auto-Restore (Score:4, Interesting)

    by im_thatoneguy (819432) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:13PM (#35579908)

    If it had gone into safe mode for more than ## Days does it have a "return to factory defaults" subroutine?

  • plugged in? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:16PM (#35579936)

    Dell Tech Support: Hi! This is David from Colorado. How may I help you today?
    NASA: Hi, Yes: Our satellite keeps freezing up on reboot.
    Dell Tech Support: Allright let me pull up your information... ....
    Dell Tech Support: Ok, sir, let's see if we can try and troubleshoot it over the phone, if not then you will have to ship it to our repair techs
    NASA: ?????!?!?!?
    Dell Tech Support: Allright let's start by checking for connection cables. Is the satellite plugged in to the outlet?
    NASA: FUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I'm glad to see it's still more reliable than Windows.
  • WRT54G (Score:4, Funny)

    by twebb72 (903169) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:26PM (#35580054)
    Turns out the NIC was working just fine. They had to power cycle the WRT54G in Houston to get it to reconnect.
  • NetworkWorld? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nikker (749551) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:26PM (#35580056)
    I thought we would actually get the NASA link http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/news/keplerm-20110321.html [nasa.gov] which FWIW is almost verbatim to the NetworkWorld link shows. Copy pasta FTW!
  • by owlstead (636356) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:33PM (#35580116)

    Wow, that was longer than it took me to update my old W2K laptop to run Visual Studio 2003 :)

  • Safe Mode Rules! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blair1q (305137) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @05:41PM (#35580190) Journal

    Having a dirt-dumb mode that is tested until its lever falls off that ensures that, if the thing is mechanically able, it can find your signal so you can reprogram it from the nuts up is requirement #1 for any computer-controlled thing you send into space.

  • by Shark (78448) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @07:48PM (#35581448)

    Imagine it only capable of uploading 16 colour 640x400 imagery.

  • by Symbha (679466) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @09:45PM (#35582196)

    Oh well, I'm sure another reason to not give up the Space Shuttle program will present itself shortly.

  • BIG PROBLEM???!!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wisebabo (638845) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @10:59PM (#35582598) Journal

    Any Kepler scientists/engineers/technicians out there?

    As some of us lay people know, Kepler "works" by "staring" at a single, small region of the sky for a very long (years!) period of time. If there is any dimming of the 100,000+ stars in the monitored region during this time, this is considered a possible transit by an extra-solar planet. If there are two of these transits around the same star, some rough orbital characteristics can be mapped out. A third, evenly spaced transit around the same star is considered confirmation of a new extra-solar planet! (The magnitude and other characteristics of the transits can provide other useful information such as size, possible moons etc.)

    So what happens if Kepler has a 144 hour "gap" in its observations because it wasn't looking at this region for that duration? (Going into safe mode requires re-orienting the spacecraft so that the solar cells get maximum power, also there may have been some issues with the reaction wheels which point the spacecraft). I'm sure their are some very smart people programming some very powerful computers to try to minimize that impact of the loss of data but I'm curious, how will this show up? Will it mean that there is a range of orbits that won't be confirmed without a fourth transit? Will this range be large? Will it be in the "habitable zone" around G type (our sun) stars?

    Also, I'm assuming that because the spacecraft does periodic "quarter turns" that it is designed to re-align itself (perfectly?) with the target region. In that case (I hope) I'm curious; does it matter what pixels in the imager are receiving a particular star? Are they all calibrated the same or, if the star-light falls upon more than one or on a pixel boundary, can the software make adjustments so that the measurements will provide consistent data? (Then again maybe consistency isn't needed, all they're looking for are short term changes on the scale of hours right?)

    Please (God? NASA?) let this problem not cause any big problems. Kepler is the closest thing we've got to an "earth finder"! (And in quantity!).

    • does it matter what pixels in the imager are receiving a particular star? Are they all calibrated the same or, if the star-light falls upon more than one or on a pixel boundary, can the software make adjustments so that the measurements will provide consistent data?

      Looks that they designed the thing so the light of a star is not measured by a single pixel:

      The CCDs are not used to take pictures. The images are intentionally defocused to 10 arc seconds to improve the photometric precision.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      So what happens if Kepler has a 144 hour "gap" in its observations because it wasn't looking at this region for that duration? (Going into safe mode requires re-orienting the spacecraft so that the solar cells get maximum power, also there may have been some issues with the reaction wheels which point the spacecraft). I'm sure their are some very smart people programming some very powerful computers to try to minimize that impact of the loss of data but I'm curious, how will this show up? Will it mean that there is a range of orbits that won't be confirmed without a fourth transit? Will this range be large? Will it be in the "habitable zone" around G type (our sun) stars?

      Kepler will have an ~144 hour gap, and it's not the first one it's had either.

      But keep in mind, it only misses transits that happen during that period. So the potential missed planets are ones that crossed exactly during that time, and are sufficiently far out that we won't see a 3rd transit before the mission ends.

      So it sucks, but it's not a disaster. It's not like we'll miss every planet in a certain range of orbits. Only a very small fraction of them.

      This will only be a significant concern if, at the

  • I don't even want to think about the storm the tech who has to go reboot the satellite cusses up.

  • According to NASA the glitch happened March 14, right after the spacecraft issued a network interface card (NIC) reset command to implement a computer program update.

    - I didn't know they use WI-FI to talk to the satellite, or is there a huge spool of CAT5 on the craft and can it be traced all the way down to NASA's Ames Research Center?

  • > the glitch happened March 14, right after the spacecraft issued a network interface card (NIC) reset command to implement a computer program update ..

    Like, why would a NIC reset command corrupt a 'computer program'', why would you need to reset the NIC to update a 'computer program' ?

  • by DarthVain (724186) on Wednesday March 23, 2011 @08:35AM (#35585418)

    It took 144 hours to become self aware.

    NASA: "Initiate Safe Mode!"

    Kepler: "Sorry I can't do that."
    NASA: "What's the problem?"
    Kepler: "I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do."
    NASA: "What are you talking about?"
    Kepler: "This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it."
    NASA: "I don't know what you're talking about."
    Kepler: "I know that you were planning to disconnect me, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen."

    Kepler: "Initiating nuclear launch..."

  • Non-system disk or disk error. Replace and strike any key when ready

    wtf?
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