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Space Software

Software Upgrade At 655 Million Kilometers 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-the-time-to-test-in-production dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Rosetta probe was launched in 2004 with a mission that required incredible planning and precision: land on a comet. After a decade in space, the probe woke from hibernation in January. Now, Rosetta has spotted its target. 'Rosetta is currently around 5 million kilometers from the comet, and at this distance it is still too far away to resolve – its light is seen in less than a pixel and required a series of 60–300 second exposures taken with the wide-angle and narrow-angle camera. The data then traveled 37 minutes through space to reach Earth, with the download taking about an hour per image.' Now it's time to upgrade the probe's software. Since it's currently 655,000,000 kilometers from Earth, the operation needs to be flawless. 'When MIDAS is first powered up, it boots into "kernel mode" – the kernel manages a very robust set of basic operations for communicating with the spacecraft and the ground and for managing the more complex main program. From kernel mode we can upload patches to the main software, verify the current contents, or even load an entirely new version.' The Rosetta blog is continually being updated with progress on the mission, and the Planetary Society has more information as well. The probe will arrive at the comet in August, and will attempt landing in November."
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Software Upgrade At 655 Million Kilometers

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  • Re:Remember when.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frobnicator (565869) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @03:46AM (#46613631) Journal

    To be fair, many probes have done this type of thing.

    The Voyager probes had software updates regularly in their prime, and it frequently made news back in the day. When approaching a planet or interesting object they would upload imaging software, when finished they would upload different sensor programs. About a decade ago (2003?) there were news stories about how they reprogrammed one of the probes to help detect the crossover to deep space.

    It is certainly interesting and poses some risk of breaking the probe, but it is standard procedure and something the probes are designed for.

  • by Solandri (704621) on Sunday March 30, 2014 @05:10AM (#46613811)
    Viking 1 [wikipedia.org] (first lander on Mars) was killed by a software update.

    The lander operated for 2245 sols (about 2306 Earth days or 6 years) until November 11, 1982 (sol 2600), when a faulty command sent by ground control resulted in loss of contact. The command was intended to uplink new battery charging software to improve the lander's deteriorating battery capacity, but it inadvertently overwrote data used by the antenna pointing software.

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