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The Tech Aboard the International Space Station

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the networking-in-circles dept.

Space 183

CNETNate writes "With its own file server for uploaded Hollywood blockbusters, a 10Mbps Internet connection to Earth, and around a hundred IBM ThinkPad notebooks, the consumer technology aboard the $150 billion International Space Station is impressive. It's the responsibility of just two guys to maintain the uptime of the Space Station's IT, and they have given CNET an in-depth interview to explain what tech's aboard, how it works, and whether Windows viruses are a threat to the astronauts. In a related feature, the Space Station's internal network (which operates over bandwidth of just 1Mbps) and its connected array of Lenovo notebooks is explained, along with the tech we could see in the future."

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183 comments

Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (2, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966548)

In the very long run, after we colonize Mars and possibly the Moon, latency issues will become even more severe. It will be interesting to see whether we will simply give them separate networks or have those networks as part of the internet. If the second occurs, we may need new protocols to deal with the large latency and related issues.

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (3, Interesting)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966584)

Obviously just "separate" networks bridged by a few high-speed high-latency links. Exactly like how continents are done now.

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966848)

except that the "high-latency" networks now are really not that high-latency. When we go to Mars, the latency will be several minutes at best.

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (4, Funny)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966606)

Colonize? I think you mean conquer, and enslave the troglodites populations to mine dilithium for our fast than light ships. Hopefully we'll be able to genetically modify navigators for them. Or find some handsome young captains to fly around and defeat gods.

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (5, Funny)

DarkFencer (260473) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966752)

In the very long run, after we colonize Mars and possibly the Moon, latency issues will become even more severe. It will be interesting to see whether we will simply give them separate networks or have those networks as part of the internet. If the second occurs, we may need new protocols to deal with the large latency and related issues.

We already have networks with latency comparable to round trip Earth/Mars connections. Its called Time Warner Cable.

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (4, Informative)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966782)

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967488)

"The delay in sending or receiving data from Mars takes between three-and-a-half to 20 minutes at the speed of light. "

  How are they coming up with that? I thought it was closer to 90 minutes...

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (1)

sayno2quat (1651749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967692)

We are a lot closer to mars than to the sun, and it only takes 8 minutes or so for light to travel from the sun to us (if I remember my 4th grade science correctly).

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (2, Informative)

Score Whore (32328) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967714)

It's going to vary since both Earth and Mars orbit the Sun. The closest distance is around 55 million km. The furthest is around 400 million km. At 55 Mkm, it's about 3 minutes. At 400 Mkm it's about 22 minutes.

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (1)

Meumeu (848638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967758)

"The delay in sending or receiving data from Mars takes between three-and-a-half to 20 minutes at the speed of light. "

How are they coming up with that? I thought it was closer to 90 minutes...

I may be wrong, but I think they divided the minimum and the maximum distance between the Earth and Mars by the speed of light...

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966956)

hmmmm... so, what would the 'cost' of spam sent to mars be? and how easy would it be to DoS that single, high latency link?

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (2, Interesting)

nicc777 (614519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967146)

I suppose they will have some kind of near earth orbit satellite that act as a gateway and it will have firewalls, IDS etc. to offer some protection for the obvious attacks. So the network traffic from this point onward to mars (and beyond) should be largely legit. Then again - I DoS myself sometimes with "legit" traffic in some crazy experiment :-)

Got UUCP? (4, Informative)

winkydink (650484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967016)

Once upon a time, large portions of the internet were "store and forward."

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967066)

Presumably, they'll be connected with ansibles [wikipedia.org] ...

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967528)

In the very long run, after we colonize Mars and possibly the Moon, latency issues will become even more severe. It will be interesting to see whether we will simply give them separate networks or have those networks as part of the internet. If the second occurs, we may need new protocols to deal with the large latency and related issues.

Quantum entanglement, baby!

Re:Issues with such networks generalize to Mars (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967558)

This is why we need Wormhole tech, even a Wormhole a few microns wide that connects between earth and mars would be able to transmit Trillions of bytes per second if utilized properly....

One server? (2, Interesting)

skgrey (1412883) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966566)

"One of the T61ps is a server, making it a client/server network with a couple of routers and an Ethernet backbone.."

You're telling me that with over a hundred machines up there that they have a single point of failure for their domain architecture? And it's a laptop? Hey NASA, ever hear of high-availability?

Granted they probably don't use that many domain resources, but you'd think if they were going to use any specific kind of tech that they would make sure it was redundant. You'd think with how much they spent for this space-station that they'd make an appropriate IT purchase..

Re:One server? (3, Interesting)

RotateLeftByte (797477) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966662)

They'll probably just dosconnect the failed one and plug in another one. Remember the costs per kilo of getting payload into orbit. IMHO, using only laptops makes common sense.

Re:One server? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966688)

the better question is why they have a hundred laptops for a crew of 3-6 max.

Re:One server? (2, Interesting)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966878)

The article doesn't really talk about the evolution of the network over the life of the station. I'd suspect they have all those laptops for the hard disks, since I imagine they're doing a variety of possibly data-intensive experiments up there that can't deal with the latency getting to a hard drive on the ground and back.

Obviously, they could use external hard drives, but probably couldn't justify a standalone disk without a fully functional PC.

Re:One server? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966972)

NAS ? RAIDed 2.5" drive bay enclosure ?

Re:One server? (2, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967076)

For the mass of a NAS, you can have an entire notebook. More functionality out of the latter, so that would be preferred.

Re:One server? (2, Funny)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966892)

the better question is why they have a hundred laptops for a crew of 3-6 max.

One Tang spill could render several laptops useless. Perhaps this is a redundancy measure.

Re:One server? (2, Insightful)

sayno2quat (1651749) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967782)

Except it would 'spill' into a sphere, floating slowly toward the laptop. But you're right in that it would still ruin the computer.

Re:One server? (3, Insightful)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967140)

Maybe a combination or redundancy and price/power ratio? When you're sending something in to space the weight is more important the price, so it may cost them similar amounts to send up 100 laptops vs 1 huge server, but it's also a lot harder to break 100 laptops and much easier to "fix" a laptop if you have 100 spares (leave the old one in a pile and replace it when you land). One factor might be that laptops are already designed to be light, while weight isn't really a factor for most servers (so they'd have to design their own). Laptops are also designed to deal with bumps, so they may survive re-entry better.

Re:One server? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967208)

the better question is why they have a hundred laptops for a crew of 3-6 max.

3-6 crew maybe, but hundreds of experiments. I think just about every one of the experiment racks has a laptop controlling it these days.

The Martian Chronicles (1)

Hybrid-brain (1478551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966598)

Seems a lot closer now then it did before.

Interesting thought (2, Interesting)

InMSWeAntitrust (994158) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966644)

The max ground distance for unamplified WiFi is about 200km. The ISS orbits between 340 and 350km, therefore I say we all point our collective WiFi antennae up and try and see the first person to connect up to their network. Of course, you'd only have about 90 minutes of access as I recall; the ISS orbits too fast for much more access time.

Re:Interesting thought (2, Funny)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966686)

Imagine a Beowulf satellite constellation of those.

Re:Interesting thought (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966898)

So is there a network of geosynchronous satellites that provides its 10 mbps link to the ground?

Re:Interesting thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966996)

TDRSS can operate in the 100s of Mbps in raw data (not IP)

Re:Interesting thought (2, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967052)

So is there a network of geosynchronous satellites that provides its 10 mbps link to the ground?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tracking_and_Data_Relay_Satellite_System [wikipedia.org]

Up to 48 megs. My guess is 10 megs came about because someone told a journalist, "its about as fast as old fashioned thinnet" whom thought to himself, thinnet is 10 megs, so the journalist says 10 megs.

And/or there may be a critical link in the path that is, literally, a piece of thinnet coax, or an old fashioned 10 meg only cat5 cable, so the overall path cannot exceed 10 megs.

Re:Interesting thought (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967108)

TFA says that they get a portion of the bandwidth of a Ku-band satellite. If the TDRSS functions at 48Mbps, their 10Mbps is a reasonable fraction of it.

Re:Interesting thought (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966994)

Of course, you'd only have about 90 minutes of access as I recall; the ISS orbits too fast for much more access time.

The orbit is about 91 minutes long.. An ideal ground track is only a couple minutes... talk to the ham radio folks whom use a couple watts to a voice FM signal on an external antenna. The wifi is much faster (needs higher SNR) and has an inside antenna and have a zilionth of a watt, so unlikely.

Re:Interesting thought (4, Informative)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967044)

OK you get two points for +1crazy. Point 1; the ISS completes an ENTIRE orbit in 90 minutes. That means that if you had an antenna pointed straight up, and say you used a moderate gain antenna with a 5 degree beam, you will get just over ONE minute of access before you need to adjust the antenna. You would need a pretty sophisticated ground tracking mechanism to have any hope of keeping the connection alive for more than a minute.

On to 2. WiFi uses an ack timeout in the microsecond range. This means that for a typically configured transceiver, you are racing the speed of light with that timeout window. The practical limit happens to be around 20 miles, or 32 kilometers. Not quite enough to get you to the ISS.

Good luck, though!

ISS spotting (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967058)

The ISS is usually only visible for a few minutes, between 5 and 10 if you are lucky. But for anyone interested in trying: http://www.heavens-above.com/ [heavens-above.com] Don't forget to give it your location.

Re:Interesting thought (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967230)

... I say we all point our collective WiFi antennae up and try and see the first person to connect up to their network. Of course, you'd only have about 90 minutes of access as I recall; the ISS orbits too fast for much more access time.

It makes one orbit every 90 minutes, so the visibility from a ground station is a lot less than that!

Maybe you meant 90 seconds? that's more like right.

"a 10Mbps Internet connection to Earth" (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966660)

With a LOT of lag.

Re: "a 10Mbps Internet connection to Earth" (5, Interesting)

Talisman (39902) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966796)

Nah, wouldn't be so bad.

ISS orbits at between 278 km (173 mi) and 460 km (286 mi) from Earth.

LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites orbit at about 400 km, and Geostationary sats orbit at 35,786 km over the equator.

I'm connected to a GEO sat right now (I'm in the Gulf of Aden atm), and ping time is just under 800ms. Not great, admittedly, but really not bad.

I imagine NASA keeps their pipe pretty full 24/7 and that might generate some lag, but at their altitude, they are probably getting 300ms ping times or better. It also depends on where your data goes once it hits the Earth station. We had a horrible bottleneck at Eik, Norway so we routed the data through Mirimar, Florida and it lopped off about 600ms from our ping time.

I'm guessing NASA has a pretty sweet peering arrangement ;)

Re: "a 10Mbps Internet connection to Earth" (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966924)

Well, Im sure it's better than I used to get playing Quake over a 56k modem.

Re: "a 10Mbps Internet connection to Earth" (1)

dotgain (630123) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967612)

In dial-up most of the latency comes from serialization delay, rather than propagation delay. You'd typically see very short RTT times on short pings, and much longer ones for larger packets. You could improve the situation by tuning you MTU down to about 500 (from about 1500) to cut your "lag". It depends on who you're calling, but the PSTN typically has When your latency comes from propagation delay, there's nowt you can do.

Re: "a 10Mbps Internet connection to Earth" (2, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967262)

Actually I am sure that the ISS is using TDRS or it's replacment for their link. I would bet that the ISS has at least one geosynchronous bounce at all times.

Re: "a 10Mbps Internet connection to Earth" (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967082)

Any lag on that connection probably has more to do with the fact that the ISS is travelling very fast, and less to do with the actual distance travelled. The station isn't *that* far away from us... video communication with it is low enough latency that most people wouldn't even notice the lag... it's not more than about half a second.

What's really at issue, for ground-based transmitters, is that the station doesn't have line of sight full time. You can handle that with a geostationary sattelite relay to a network of sattelites, though, and some smart routing could send the packets to whichever sattelite has LoS with the station in order to rebroadcast it to the station. Given NASA's preference for doing things on the cheap, though, I think it's more likely that they'd use a protocol that allows for a databurst when you have line of sight, and queues transmits when you don't. Such a system is probably not unlike SMTP, when you think about it... servers try to transmit mail immediately, but if there's no connectivity they'll hang on to it in order to try again later when there is connectivity.

Hmm (5, Funny)

Jeek Elemental (976426) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966674)

"Crew members aboard the ISS can request specific films and TV shows to be uploaded to a central file server, which they can then watch on any of the Station's laptops."

Space pirates!!

Re:Hmm (1)

sajuuk (1371145) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966754)

I predict that the MAFIAA's next target shall be NASA.

Re:Hmm (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966780)


"NASA, can you beam up Zombieland.2009.R5.ScENeGr0up.avi? That shitty TS is driving us nuts!"

Re:Hmm (2, Funny)

dfxk (1648177) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966914)

And we thought the dvdrips were coming from Russia.

Re:Hmm (2, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966788)

Space pirates!!

Not necessariily; they could be getting the movies with the MPAA studios' blessing. It's only "piracy" if the copyright holder doesn't give permission.

I know, "woosh" and all that.

In space, no one can hear you subpoena. (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967094)

Each piece of equipment has to be claimed. http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=07/11/07/1644216 [slashdot.org]

If all the astronauts say "not my country's server," then it isn't under any jurisdiction. (or protection, which means the MPAA is quite welcome to go shut it down if they can get there).

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967422)

no no no....it's pirates... In.... SPPPPPPAAAAAACCCCEEE

Re:Hmm (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967426)

Space pirates!!

Fry: Space pirates?
Leela: You know... pirates, but in space!

Re:Hmm (1)

pyr02k1 (1640167) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967764)

Talk about going overboard with this offshore server buisness... Jeez

Why does it have to be a blockbuster? (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966678)

> With its own file server for uploaded Hollywood blockbusters...

Is that a mission requirement? If they upload a foreign film or "Ishtar" will the entire file system crash? Will they get in trouble if they watch "Dark Star"?

Re:Why does it have to be a blockbuster? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966916)

If they upload "The Star Wars Holiday Special", LEO will be contaminated for decades.

Re:Why does it have to be a blockbuster? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967660)

Is that a mission requirement? If they upload a foreign film or "Ishtar" will the entire file system crash? Will they get in trouble if they watch "Dark Star"?

Sadly, yes. You see Hollywood blockbusters, while not being good quality, are at least not grounds for war. War? With who you ask? The aliens who would receive the same signals.

It's all part of the Tycho Treaty. Sections 9371-96854

It's very sad (3, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966680)

It's very sad, with the real high tech shit aboard the ISS, that consumer grade electronics are featured as 'the tech of ISS'.

Re:It's very sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966716)

that's radiation hardened consumer grade electronics you insensitive clod!

Re:It's very sad (1)

Meumeu (848638) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967836)

RTFA, they test them but they're not hardened:

Whenever we go to select a laptop for flying, we have a certification process to determine the best ones. We'll test it for how well it withstands radiation. [The ISS is exposed to as much radiation in a day as computers down on Earth are in a year.] We also test for off-gassing, in case the computer emits chemicals that could create fumes on the Station.
You'd be surprised at how many computers would survive on the ISS. I can't think of an occurrence when we've have a computer fail from the radiation itself. It may reduce the lifetime of how long we can keep the equipment in orbit, but most of the time the failures are just like the ones here on the ground -- we'll have a hard-drive failure or we'll have an application problem and end up reloading the machine

Re:It's very sad (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966746)

That's Slashdot for you. The CNet article is titled "Interview: The Space Station's IT guys".

Re:It's very sad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966790)

Maybe because "consumer" grade computers are high tech. . .

The reality is that all you need is a few laptops to run everything on the ISS. Consumer grade product have better real world testing than any home-cooked solution, they are a ton cheaper and easier to boot.

What is sad about the fact that apart from extreme data analysis, a laptop can do all that the ISS needs?

Re:It's very sad (3, Informative)

Shane112358 (1532293) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967144)

As someone who works in space flight hardware, I will state what I think is obvious to most slashdotters: These are not just "consumer grade electronics." True, they were based heavily or solely on an existing consumer product, but they have to meet a very stringent set of requirements to operate in space. *They need to cool themselves effectively despite having no gravity, which means heat doesn't rise and you lose all naturally convective heating *They need to be radiation hardened to mitigate against bit flips and the like due to radiation particles *They need to meet specific reliability and usability requirements driven by spaceflight And lastly, with everyone complaining about how the government wastes money, do you really expect that it would be better for NASA to contract out development, design, testing and building of a one-off product (laptop, camera, MP3 player, camcorder, PDA, etc) where it isn't necessary?

Re:It's very sad (3, Informative)

The Yuckinator (898499) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967324)

FTFA:

"You'd be surprised at how many computers would survive on the ISS. I can't think of an occurrence when we've have a computer fail from the radiation itself. It may reduce the lifetime of how long we can keep the equipment in orbit, but most of the time the failures are just like the ones here on the ground -- we'll have a hard-drive failure or we'll have an application problem and end up reloading the machine."

Re:It's very sad (1)

Shane112358 (1532293) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967522)

...which is why I said, "they were based heavily or solely on an existing consumer product." But they still have to meet the requirements. You can't just buy an HP off the shelf and say, "Alright, here is our ISS laptop." It has to meet specific requirements first.

Re:It's very sad (1)

ThreeE (786934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967460)

"And lastly, with everyone complaining about how the government wastes money, do you really expect that it would be better for NASA to contract out development, design, testing and building of anything?"

There. Fixed that for you.

Re:It's very sad (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967570)

So... Thinkpads aren't consumer grade hardware? Sure, I love mine, but calling 'em space-grade isn't exactly being honest, IMO ;)

Re:It's very sad (1)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967786)

None of these machines are radiation hardened in any way. For the most part they are indeed off the shelf with the exception of adding some extra cooling fans to accommodate the lower pressure that the station maintains during EVAs, along with a DC-DC adapter to match the stations 28V power. When you consider a 40mz RAD6000 PPC goes for about $300k just for the cpu the cost of specialty hardening a laptop would be way too cost prohibitive. None of these run or control critical systems so it's not a big deal

but.. (1)

Keruo (771880) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966722)

Do they run linux?

Re:but.. (1)

dfxk (1648177) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967024)

They get viruses, therefore no.

Re:but.. (1)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967218)

But Do they run linux?

No they don't actually, they run WindowsXP. At least for their normal daily laptop usage, I'm not sure about their servers.
You can see the videos "A day in the ISS" (part 1 to 7 I think) here [youtube.com] , and on some parts you clearly see the standard WindowsXP layout on the laptops.

Pentium 4... (5, Funny)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966726)

housing 68 IBM ThinkPad A31 laptops from 2002, each boasting a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 processor, 512MB RAM and a 40GB hard drive.

It turns out these double as the main heat supply for the ISS as well.

ISS isolated from windows viruses ? (1)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966868)

There have been several instances when viruses have found their way on to the ISS [cnet.co.uk] . How do you try to prevent this?

"Every week we uplink new virus definitions. We uplink and deploy them straight away, so we're running pretty much as up-to-date as we can get. If there ever was a virus, we can pop that computer off the network, isolate it and figure out what the problem is. Even if it needs a complete re-wipe, it's pretty easy to quarantine. But the way our IT is set up, there's a network on board, there's a network on the ground, and they're very isolated from viruses on the Internet."'

So if it is isolated from viruses on the Internet, why do you need Anti Virus software on the network ?

Re:ISS isolated from windows viruses ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966952)

The only possibility i could imagine those viruses coming up is through attachments in the E-mail or the 'file server'.

Re:ISS isolated from windows viruses ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966980)

Well if they are running Norton or Macafee, its no wonder they need so many laptops...

Re:ISS isolated from windows viruses ? (1)

Stupendoussteve (891822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967002)

Just in case?

Military networks are isolated and still use Anti-Virus, and they have still had some publicized infections.

Re:ISS isolated from windows viruses ? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967304)

Sounds like a job for Linux or Solaris..
I wonder how many visual basic applications are being run on the ISS. No I am not trolling. A lot of experimental control systems are written in VB because it is so easy to throw together an application.

Windows viruses are more virulent in space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966880)

Some theorize it is the cosmic rays. Others point out that most times ISS is the only location for space spammers to target and inevitably one of the astronauts punches the monkey.

Wow (1)

charliemopps11 (1606697) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966908)

68 laptops? That's kind of baffling. I can understand having older equipment, it costs a ton of money just to lift a few pounds into orbit. But why so many? and wouldn't you think NASA would have contracted out for customer laptops that weighed less? You'd think companys would have given them away for free just to boast their equipment was used in space.

Re:Wow (3, Insightful)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967012)

Each module probably has it's own laptop per experiment. Not to mention stored laptops for when the space shuttle crew comes on board.

These systems are most likely being used for data input/output and monitoring of experiments. It would be silly to do everything from one computer.

Re:Wow (0)

Stupendoussteve (891822) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967030)

NASA found the lighter weight of the Macbook Air was negated by the associated Apple taxes.

Re:Wow (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967342)

My own unsubstantiated and random guess? Perhaps they send a laptop up with each astronaut and just leave it in orbit when he/she leaves?

Re:Wow (2, Informative)

sunking2 (521698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967930)

NASA requires you to use the thinkpads. Not that they are anything special other than they have gone through a battery of tests and have a few mods to help with cooling and power requirements. Offer them all you want for free and they'll say no. The main reason for so many are that each one more than likely is dedicated to a single use. If you have 60 experiments, then you have 60 laptops. It's quite a bit of effort and paperwork to certify that any application you need to run on a laptop plays nicely with everything else. Even if your program is a whopping 100kb controller for some piece of equipment. This is done because you typically don't have a whole lot of overlap between who is supplying the experiments so cross testing is difficult. The last thing you want to do is try to fire up an experiment, not have it work and then have to waste everyones time figuring out what isn't playing nice with what. It's just easier to dedicate a whole laptop.

I smell some... (1)

nicc777 (614519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29966920)

copyright violations... What special privilege do they get from the RIAA etc. I want it too!

Re:I smell some... (1)

Neuroelectronic (643221) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967006)

I imagine the RIAA has no jurisdiction in space. Perhaps TPB should consider hosting on the moon.

Re:I smell some... (1)

nicc777 (614519) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967074)

Perhaps, but they still need to rip the stuff here on earth, right?

Re:I smell some... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967344)

The copyright holder retains exclusive public performance rights. This legal copyright compliance requirement applies to any business, doctor or dentist offices, schools, hospitals, public libraries, daycare facilities, parks, recreation departments, summer camps, churches, private clubs, prisons and lodges, etc. This legal requirement applies:

I don't see a "space stations" on there...

and the 68 thinkpads is naturally used as a de/coding cloud.

How can they upload movies? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29966930)

There is no legal way to get the movie off the DVD - they have to be breaking CSS to do it, which as we all know, is against the law. And the Fed Govt would never break their own law. Or does Hollywood provide NASA with special digital editions of the films just for NASA?

Re:How can they upload movies? (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967494)

Right, there is no way to legally watch a digital copy of a movie without a DVD. Except for Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, On Demand cable tv, lodgenet...

"mankind's first permanent space colony" (3, Informative)

tlambert (566799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967018)

"mankind's first permanent space colony"

Someone needs to tell Mark Harris that the ISS is scheduled to be deorbited 1Q 2016 before he moves in to his condo there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station [wikipedia.org]

-- Terry

Re:"mankind's first permanent space colony" (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967680)

With him being such an intelligent being, I recommend we tell him, after he moved to his condo there! ^^

Re:"mankind's first permanent space colony" (1)

SashaMan (263632) | more than 4 years ago | (#29968014)

This weekend I moved, and I always have a hard time throwing out old stuff. You know, an old palm pilot I haven't used in years, CRT monitors, close I don't wear anymore (or never really wore much in the first place), etc. I just feel guilty dumping stuff when there's nothing really wrong with it.

Then I though about how we spent tens of billions on the space station, only to throw it away a couple of years after it was finished, so subsequently I felt fine about throwing 3/4 of my closet in the dumpster.

Unaddressed question (3, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967176)

What happens to these laptops when they are decommissioned? They mentioned these thinkpads are from 2002 (which makes them the same vintage as the ones I use for myself at home); will they be sold off when they are replaced? I would love for my next laptop to be one that spent several years in orbit!

Re:Unaddressed question (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967374)

I've got one.

It didn't exactly reach orbit, nor was it on the ISS, but it did have a big pile of explosives strapped to it and pointed at the sky.

There are also some, uhh, g-force and thermally induced stress fractures.

Re:Unaddressed question (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967514)

Ope they have ECC ram to deal with cosmic rays :/

Re:Unaddressed question (1)

spectrokid (660550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967904)

Return vehicles are used for astronauts and important stuff. Not to fill up Ebay. My guess is they wil end up as waste in a supply vessel (like the EU Jules Verne) and burn on re-entry.

Re:Unaddressed question (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967972)

What happens to these laptops when they are decommissioned?

Perhaps your definition of "unaddressed" is different from mine. FTA:

A 2007 report from the US Government Accountability Office suggested that failed laptops are 'tossed overboard to be burned up in the atmosphere'. Is this true?

"We don't just throw them out an airlock! We have had failed laptops in the past where we put them on a Progress vehicle [an expendable Russian cargo spacecraft used for disposing rubbish] and that does burn up in the atmosphere. But we don't always do this, it depends on the failure. If it's something we want to investigate or have the engineers have a look at, we'll try to return that laptop on board the Shuttle."

The following section suggests there are no 'decommissioned' laptops:

"For the most part with the laptops, we don't have to change them. They already do everything we need them to do, so you might only see a new laptop going on board every four years."

- RG>

ISS colocation facility? (2, Funny)

kimvette (919543) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967254)

Hey, I have an idea! Maybe thepiratebay.org could relocate their servers to be colocated on the ISS. I think the upper stratosphere is out of the Swedish court's jurisdiction! ;)

Internal Network? (1)

Waste55 (1003084) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967298)

Can someone define what they mean by "internal network"? Are they still talking laptops?

Maybe I am thinking too low level, but I thought station was on MIL STD 1553.

Not the tech (1)

hey (83763) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967382)

This article is not about all the tech... just the IT stuff.

Linux 2.6 in a scientfic system on the ISS (5, Interesting)

slashbart (316113) | more than 4 years ago | (#29967748)

Our scientific equipment "Declic" was sent to the ISS last august. It runs Linux and uC-OS II on a whole pile of microprocessors. The Linux of the part of the system that we built was completely custom built based on "linux from scratch". For an interesting read: Linux Journal [linuxjournal.com]
The 2.6 kernel was state of the art when we built it, but we needed its lower latency features.

What a newb... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29967778)

Is it just me or did the IT guy from NASA sound like a total technoweenie. I noticed he kept repeating himself using buzzwords...in some sentences he said the exact same thing twice: "There's a server on our network, so it's a Client/Server network" O'RLY? And instead of saying reformat he said reload and rewipe and his "buzzword slang" kept changing...how did such a newb get to work at NASA?

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