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Air Force Extends Plug-and-Play Spacecraft

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the can-we-get-an-analogy-upgrade? dept.

The Military 77

coondoggie writes "Looking to build strategic satellites in days if need be, rather than months, the Air Force is pushing forward with what it calls plug-and-play spacecraft. This week it awarded a $500,000 order to Northrop Grumman to begin designing the plug-and-play spacecraft 'bus' which will offer standard interfaces for a variety of payload components, much like a laptop computer that immediately recognizes new hardware when it's plugged in, Northrop stated. The order was awarded under a contract that has a ceiling of $200 million."

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77 comments

Starcraft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341240)

read that as "starcraft", way more amusing

USB analogy is a big bogus (3, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341244)

They discuss having a standard power bus, and a tcp/ip LAN with something like a COTS router. So in fact its not plug and play like USB on a laptop it is plug and play like attaching your laptop to your LAN. It is exactly that.

I expect it will have a hard coded configuration with static IP addresses though. DHCP is a single point of failure and I don't think the complexity is justified here.

Re:USB analogy is a big bogus (5, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341286)

In the existing space PnP spec, the devices are autonomously numbered. In fact, the existing space PnP spec is designed to run over either USB or the SpaceWire bus.

If you read the article, you'll note that the comparison with USB is that the devices provide other devices on the network with a description of the functions they support. So, the bus has multinode network communication over a single common protocol, power, autonomous numbering, and devices indicating their capabilities. That's USB, not IP.

Existing space PnP spec (3, Informative)

teridon (139550) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342440)

You mentioned the existing PnP spec, but didn't provide any details! The effort is called Space Plug and Play Avionics (SPA) [google.com].

Also I'm sure you already know this, but for the rest of the /. crowd: SpaceWire [esa.int] is an existing standard bus (like a router), but it doesn't currently have any PnP features.

Re:USB analogy is a big bogus (1)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341358)

Either I am way too far gone this evening, or there is something wrong with this article. The system that is described is existing tech from the 'AFRL,' a division of the U.S. Air Force. The contract is described like so:

Northrop Grumman is expected at this point to deliver a study that will outline how the AFRL can reduce cost and develop future plug-and-play space systems.

This does not equate to Northrop Grumman designing the next gen interface, it means they will be the consultants doing the position reviews on the AFRL personnel for the next downsizing, right? I bet those Northrop G. folk like Michael Bolton... celebrate his entire body of work in fact.

Re:USB analogy is a big bogus (1)

jesusfr3Ak (1693850) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343162)

I don't think you're reading the situation quite right. As a branch of the USAF, theAFRL (Air Force Research Labs) [af.mil] would never report to NG. I've been on contracts similar to this. Basically, NG will be expected to deliver some sort of "architecture" that will provide guidance to the AF.

Still, though... (1)

WheelDweller (108946) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341678)

Typically one makes 2-3 satellites at a time; all are meant to be identical in case it's necessary to compare the two for repair. But completely forgetting the invention of interchangable parts, satellites seem to be *very* proprietary.

Ya think computers are bad about that? I'd rather have computers- at least they have PCI/AGP/PCI-Express busses, where satellites tend to be very unique, I'm told.

What processes *doesn't* improve when you make units from similar, interchangable parts? Would we have computers on so many desks if they weren't at least a little interchangable?

Re:Still, though... (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341712)

What processes *doesn't* improve when you make units from similar, interchangable parts?

Basically it's a tradeoff. With modularity you get ease of design, but you lose some of the tightness of integration that comes from making each custom part. If your sending stuff into space, that can be pretty important because each ounce of extra unnecessary material costs a ton of money. You make the satellite do exactly what you want, nothing more.

Similar to libraries: they are great to have because they make development a lot easier. The end user might not appreciate 8 megabytes of unneeded functionality imported into your program, but hey, sometimes hard disk space is cheap enough to make it worth it. That's a tradeoff going a different direction.

Another point, custom jobs can often be prettier: this is pretty [apple.com], but it sure isn't modular. You can't swap out the video card.

Re:Still, though... (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342886)

Another point, custom jobs can often be prettier: this is pretty [apple.com], but it sure isn't modular. You can't swap out the video card.

Actually, Apple uses the MXM graphics interface on its iMacs. So yes, you can swap out the video card.

Re:USB analogy is a big bogus (0, Offtopic)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341900)

The device you plug into is a single point of failure anyways (potentially). If the same device exposes a DHCP equivalent to its direct ports, and handles inter-plugin-device addressing properly (when multiple plugin-devices interconnect), then the DHCP equivalent's not an additional point of failure.

Also, DHCP doesn't have to be a single point of failure even on a LAN -- multiple DHCP servers can be used, with a supernet split according to the 80/20 rule [microsoft.com].

Also, unless the static IP addresses are of the IPv6 sort, or EUI-64/48 (64-bit or 48-bit MAC addresses), there is a point of failure introduced -- as in the equivalent of an IP conflict.

Re:USB analogy is a big bogus (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30347828)

"Why is linux.conf.au in New Zealand? Did I miss a memo?"

Yes. Please line up in an orderly fashion on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for assimilation into the Greater New Zealand Empire. Our trained keas and kakapos will be hovering nearby to assist you.

Drivers (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341246)

With spacecraft, as with computers, you have to have the right drivers. ...I don't know, it was just an opportunity to get a first post...

God bless the idiot-proof Air Force (3, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341270)

Hapablap: Oh...not the Harrier! We've got a war tomorrow.
          Bob: [sees control panel with two buttons, STOP and FLY]
                    God bless the idiot-proof Air Force.

He presses the FLY button, and the jet taxis forward into a ditch.
Sideshow Bob switches to the Wright Brothers plane.

this very same thinking (5, Funny)

siddesu (698447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341276)

is what got the aliens beaten by a macintosh and a loser like jeff goldblum. compile everything in, disable all dynamic modules!

Re:this very same thinking (1)

dontmakemethink (1186169) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341708)

That didn't *actually* happen y'know...

(mod me informative to annoy parent ;)

Re:this very same thinking (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341896)

Whaddya mean it didn't happen? I SAW the documentary. Even got a copy off the bittorrent for the kids.

Re:this very same thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30357274)

+1 happy informed American family FTW!

Plug and Pray... (2, Interesting)

TheModelEskimo (968202) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341282)

...never had so much meaning.

Re:Plug and Pray... (1)

kimvette (919543) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341662)

Well, as long as they steer clear of Windows, they won't get a BSOD when trying to plug in any kind of scanner.

Re:Plug and Pray... (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341688)

or Chrome.

anytime i visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station [wikipedia.org] in chrome, i get a BSOD, literally 4 or so seconds after i hit enter, i see the blue screen for half a second then reboot.

in fact i haven't learned from my mistakes and got a BSOD making my first post(this is my second)

lets hope rocket scientists learn faster than i do

$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (0)

phantomcircuit (938963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341322)

This week it awarded a $500,000 order to Northrop Grumman to begin designing the plug-and-play spacecraft "bus" ... The order was awarded under a contract that has a ceiling of $200 million.

There is a pretty big difference between $500,000 and $200,000,000. So which is it Air Force?

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341352)

There is a pretty big difference between $500,000 and $200,000,000. So which is it Air Force?

If the company you are contracting to estimates that a project is going to take somewhere between 0.5 million and 200 million, guess which of those two numbers is going to be more correct?

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341892)

Speaking as someone with experience in defense contracting, some contracts actually come in far below their ceiling in terms of actual dollars expended. Of course, others go way over budget.

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30357506)

speaking as someone with experience in some actually . Of course, others don't.

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342604)

$200,000,000 merely to get to the ceiling? Why cant they go to the nearest home depot and get some step ladders!

Id hate to know what the rest of the cost if for getting out of earths gravity well.

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (5, Informative)

NigelBeamenIII (986462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341360)

It's a question of how government contracts are awarded. They typically will have at least two things for each contract: the amount of money on the contract and the contract ceiling. The amount on the contract is the amount the company actually has in their accounts to spend. the ceiling is more like a "credit limit" which says the maximum amount of money the AF *can* ever put on the contract. Hope that explanation helps some.

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341700)

Exactly. The Air Force "awarded a $500,000 order to Northrop Grumman to begin designing the plug-and-play spacecraft 'bus'", emphasis mine. That half mil pays for, among other things, a cost assessment, which cannot exceed $200M. So far Northrop Grumman may have only demonstrated that it can do it more cost-effectively than competing bidders, or lined the right pockets, whatever.

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341374)

I think a "ceiling" means that the project managers on both sides will ensure that at least that amount is spent, then late change requests may push the final tally arbitrarily higher.

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341404)

My guess is that it's both.

The government isn't going to give you $200 million up front. Most likely, it's $500k for the initial phase (whatever that may include) and possibly up to $200 million depending on progress/success.

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (2, Informative)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342256)

AC scores a hit whilst everyone else is flailing around with tropes about how government contracts are always absurd. The USAF have been given 500k to "begin" the project - probably to determine its feasibility - stipulating that if it looks promising they will be awarded the rest over the next few years

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30344402)

the 500K is just the hello use this office and this lab with these interns part
the other 19,500K is to actually get something done.

(the "entertainment" and "stuff" gets paid for later)

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342758)

And people wonder why the credit crunch started in the US?

(No, this was not a comment directed towards the Air Force)

Re:$500,000 or $200,000,000 ?! Which is it ? (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342940)

FOCLMAO - Thankyou for the morning laugh. The reality is the fact that the United States isn't backed by Gold or anything other then wishful thinking. That's why in hell the credit crunch has been waiting to smack us upside the head with a clue stick. Only problem is, we need a clue truck to run congress over before they get the message.

*BSD is Dying (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341334)

It is now official. Netcraft confirms: *BSD is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [samag.com] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

You don't need to be the Amazing Kreskin [amazingkreskin.com] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

Fact: *BSD is dying

Power bus is what they call it now? (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341350)

So to extend Plug-and-Play spacecraft, they're paying $500,000 for a really long extension cord?

Finally (2, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341366)

Not only do they need to do this with spacecraft and satellites, they need to do it with weapons systems across the board. Gun mounts, missile launchers, hard points, radar systems, everything. Let the separate military branches keep their identity and mission focus, but make sure all the hardware they're using works together.

An effort long overdue and a good place to start.

Re:Finally (4, Informative)

Nutria (679911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341766)

they need to do it with weapons systems across the board.

They do a lot of this already. That's what the Joint in JSTARS, JSF, JDAM, etc, etc means. Then there's the commonality of small arms, payroll systems, M1 tanks run on jet fuel, and so forth.

However, there are lots of reasons why much of their material can not be common: sea-borne, air and ground equipment all have different "sturdiness" requirements, there are different RADAR frequencies for different tasks and that means different antennae, etc.

A good example of why this sometimes can, but usually can't work was that when Robert McNamara was SECDEF. He made all the branches use the same kind of gun and buy the same kind of boots, and that was great. But he also made them build a "Joint Strike Fighter" (the TFX, later named the F-111), which turned out to be way too heavy for carrier operations.

Re:Finally (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342342)

Sure the TFX was a turd. But the F-4 Phantom was originally a carrier borne fighter-bomber plane which ended up being used by all the services, so it can be done. One of the reasons the F-111 wasn't used (besides the many design problems from all the new technology they piled on it) was because the Navy said it was too heavy for a carrier aircraft as you said. Then they accepted the F-14 Tomcat which has about the same weight. The Navy asked for side-by-side seating for F-111 but then accepted in-line seating in F-14... It is a pain to design a fighter for the Navy.

Re:Finally (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342932)

Er. The F-111 loaded (instead of empty) is 25% heavier than the F-14 and that is before taking into account the necessary changes (weight increases) to the F-111 to make it capable of carrier take off and landing.

Re:Finally (1)

Nutria (679911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30344672)

But the F-4 Phantom was originally a carrier borne fighter-bomber

You can always take the toughest plane and use it in less-demanding situations.

But that doesn't make it even a semi-optimal choice in many situations. Take the F-16, for example: a great and nimble, cheap land-based fighter, which couldn't survive carrier landings.

Note also that the F-15, F-16 & F-18 have a lot of commonality in their weapons and ordinance...

Re:Finally (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30347862)

"sea-borne, air and ground equipment all have different "sturdiness" requirements"

I read that as "studliness".

Sorry. Carry on comparing inter-service barrel sizes.

Just laptops? (1)

Vyse of Arcadia (1220278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341410)

I find it odd that he specifically mentions "laptop computer" as if other kinds of computers can't do that too.

Re:Just laptops? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341444)

I suspect the intent was to draw some sort of parallel between laptops and spacecraft... I suppose since a laptop is portable... and so is a spacecraft.

Because a PC is much letter portable than a spacecraft...

here's a crazy question (3, Insightful)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341576)

Could it be too much to ask, that this bus conform to an openly-specified standard, e.g., Wishbone [wikipedia.org]?

I'm not saying it has to be Wishbone. I'm just thinking that it might be nice to avoid re-inventing the wheel. This could also have the side-effect of lowering the cost to the government (and the taxpayer who actually pays for it).

Re:here's a crazy question (2, Insightful)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341624)

Could it be too much to ask, that this bus conform to an openly-specified standard, e.g., Wishbone [wikipedia.org]?

If it was a well known standard it would probably be known by the Air Force's enemies and they could use it against them. It would be nice to not reinvent the wheel, but I don't think the military puts that thought very high.

Re:here's a crazy question (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342266)

If it were a super secret new standard, then the Chinese could use human intelligence and plain old bribery to get the spec, and then you are in the same situation except you are convinced the enemy [i]doesn't[/i] know the specification and thus you've less incentive to keep on top of its security features.

Why is that the idea of security through obscurity, which has been so discredited elsewhere, is still firmly entrenched in the military?

Re:here's a crazy question (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342276)

And once again, I forget which forum I am on in the middle of a sentence. Perhaps this is why I am not programming computers for the USAF :)

Re:here's a crazy question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30344974)

Perhaps this is why I am not programming computers for the USAF

To be honest, unless you're top of your game, have at least a masters in either a hard science or engineering discipline, and have a TS/SBI or better, you're probably not qualified to write software for the USAF.

Don't confuse NASA's space program fuckups with the Air Force's space program. I've worked with the USAF on other technology projects; they run a very tight ship. There's a reason they're re-engineering, and I highly doubt it's security through obscurity.

Re:here's a crazy question (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30347928)

"I've worked with the USAF on other technology projects; they run a very tight ship. "

And it's halfway to Zeta Reticuli by now. But I've already said too much.

Ok I presume all the cool technology the USAF hoards really is only used for prosaically blowing up stuff good. But it's fun to dream.

Re:here's a crazy question (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#30347896)

"and then you are in the same situation except you are convinced the enemy [i]doesn't[/i] know the specification"

Unless the enemy doesn't know that you're only pretending to not know that they know what you know but they don't know that you know they know!

It's the oldest rule in the book, 99.

Re:here's a crazy question (1)

omz13 (882548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342492)

Could it be too much to ask, that this bus conform to an openly-specified standard, e.g., Wishbone [wikipedia.org]?

If it was a well known standard it would probably be known by the Air Force's enemies and they could use it against them. It would be nice to not reinvent the wheel, but I don't think the military puts that thought very high.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, per se, why don't they take a (not-so-secure or safe) open system, add a bit of hardness to it, so everybody benefits (apart from the enemies).

Re:here's a crazy question (1)

systemeng (998953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342950)

I think that Enemies the air force considers for projects like this are taxpayers and congress. The only way the bus design is of interest to actual enemies (likely ignored in the analysis) IMHO is that it might work better than what they were going to use. Neither congress nor taxpayers are too keen on watching 200 million dollars get spent reinventing the wheel. If the system design is so bad that you have to hide it to make it "secure" then the design has already failed some important milestones.

Space is a challenging environment and there are relatively high numbers of bit errors there compared to earth. You can't assume that processors execute instructions correctly each time, that memory contains what you think it does, or that a bus transfers the data you told it to transfer. We can take all of these things for granted on earth for the most part. Such a space bus likely would require a much higher degree of error correction and preferably forward error correction than would a garden variety earth bus.

Re:here's a crazy question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342084)

yeah lets open source everything when it makes no sense. faggot.

Re:here's a crazy question (2, Informative)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342964)

Wishbone is a communications interface for CPUs. The AF is looking for a standard interface for discovery, cooperation, power, communication and a host of other things and it has to be capable of sufficient redundancy in a space environment. An "Analysis of Alternatives" (seeing if there is anything already out there), is a requirement prior to any program like this going forward. In other words, they already checked.

USB Analogy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341770)

Maybe they should just use USB. I mean...it works, why spend another billion dollars to reinvent it?
And they could always use those cheap chinese webcams on the next generation airplanes.

Re:USB Analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342574)

Except it's a little hard to unplug and plugin a device in space. Not to mention, those connectors would never work in a cold, irradiated environment while wearing astronaut gloves

I can't see a problem with it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30341824)

They are using the latest edition of Windows ME.

odd analogy (1)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341848)

Why liken it to a laptop, when desktops have been using buses to allow major components to be easily changed for decades. Even apple products used to be able to do it (maybe some of them still can, I wouldn't know).

Standard communication bus (3, Informative)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30341942)

If you want to know where you are coming from, a bus interface commonly used right now on satellites in U.S. and Europe is MIL-STD-1553B [obspm.fr]. This is basically a dual-redundant differential 1 Mb/s bus over a wire pair. There's a single bus controller which initiates all the transactions, and up to 31 remote terminals which respond to the bus controller.
What is a bit surprising is that for military aircraft, current designs have been moving from 1553 to Firewire (which is plug and play). So that may suggest that Firewire would be unsuitable for satellites.

Let me get this straight... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342070)

All their hardware will be using a single bus, meaning that anything that compromises that bus can compromise any of their equipment. Was the guy who designed this, by any chance, a long haired British man whose sleeping with a stunning blonde who asks a lot of questions?

Reinventing the wheel? (1)

pacinpm (631330) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342212)

Half a billion for reinventing the wheel? I mean, we have USB for a long time already, how hard can it be to reimplement it in military harware?

Re:Reinventing the wheel? (1)

omz13 (882548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342512)

Half a billion for reinventing the wheel? I mean, we have USB for a long time already, how hard can it be to reimplement it in military harware?

Quite hard. This is stuff that has to work in space, so it has to work all the time and for usually a longer timespan than originally intended... its not like back on the surface where if your cable/hub/whatever goes futz you can simply get a replacement from the local store and swap it.

PnP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342484)

Just plug it in... it's going to say "Hey I see you plugged in a new device," and it's going to load in the appropriate drivers...you'll notice that this satellite will... whoa!

me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30342644)

And what I will be doing? Ok? i am going to the site sector obzora [sectorobzora.ru]!!!

Found new hardware (1)

mr_lizard13 (882373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342650)

Apollo module.

Installing the software for your new Apollo module.

Your new Apollo module is installed. You should restart your spaceship for the changes to take effect.

Why not just USB and normal Networking? (1)

idigitallDotCom (1396193) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342770)

Is there a reason they don't just use usb or normal networking? Perhaps I'm just trivializing space technology, but what's the difference between space computers and home computers [besides the fact they use real-time operating systems]? Surely that just means the computers never go to sleep?

I'm sure that technology already exists - so it just needs $200 Billion to test and make sure it works in space?

Re:Why not just USB and normal Networking? (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 4 years ago | (#30342996)

USB uses 5v and a maximum power limitation of 2.5w. Also, it doesn't support direct device to device communication and requires a host (i.e., the computer) in order to operate. It's also doesn't allow real time sending of data. The physical interface is also lacking for satellites in space. That tiny connector wouldn't make it into orbit before breaking. So, you need a new electrical, communications and physical interface. AKA a new standard. There is some reusability as they are using a TCP/IP router, but they still require a an applications interface (one level higher than TCP/UDP) for the different parts to automatically recognize and talk to each other.

Oh, and it's $200 Million, not Billion and that is for the full development of the program (testing, prototypes, etc). The development of the interface standard is at $500 Thousand.

Basic Premise of Article (1)

jesusfr3Ak (1693850) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343208)

Just curious, but has anyone else taken a step back and wondered *why* the USAF needs to build satellites more quickly? In reality, they are probably just planning ahead for when giant satellite killing lasers litter the ground and they start dropping like flies (or whatever else the planners have come up with). If this trend continues, will we launch fleets of these things? We already have a pretty large cloud of sattelites [utdallas.edu] orbiting the earth.

The why is almost more interesting than the how (1)

cenc (1310167) | more than 4 years ago | (#30343304)

Obviously lowering cost is a good thing, but not something the military is known for. I find it interesting that the big push in the military has been on for cheap and fast satellites (fast seems more important that cheap), since about 2005. That would be around the time the Chinese demonstrated their ability to kill space vehicles, and at the same time pollute the orbit with junk by doing it. It might also be needed in the case of things like solar flares that leave the military and critical civilian sats crippled.

The only solution is to be able to deploy on mass satellites cheaply and quickly as they are destroyed or knocked out.

I see one serious flaw in this strategy. They might be cheap now, but in a conflict with China those chips and components are not going to be so cheap anymore. The same might be said after a major solar flare, with everyone scrambling to rebuild fried technology.

This really should be a proper DARPA seeded contest for Universities and guys in their back yard or Open source it.

 

How about "flies-for-sure"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30345848)

They could provide "flies-for-sure", modeled after Microsoft's highly "plays-for-sure-except-on-new-years'-eve-and-on-unsupported-players" system.

In-car networks (1)

WarJolt (990309) | more than 4 years ago | (#30348008)

Car companies have been developing car networks which would probably have similar requirements for satellites. Actuators and electrical control units are in cars and in satellites.

FlexRay is currently under development. With a few modifications I'm sure it could be adapted to work in a satellite.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FlexRay [wikipedia.org]

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