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Space Station Computers Partially Restored

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the i'd-like-to-see-geek-squad-get-up-there dept.

Space 158

Raver32 writes with the news that a partial restoration of computer control was established on the International Space Station (ISS) Thursday. Systems controlling critical elements like navigation and life-support failed on Wednesday. "Flight controllers were able to re-establish some communication with the computers overnight, with Russian engineers working Thursday to restore the rest of the system, NASA space station flight director Holly Ridings said. The U.S. space agency and Russian officials are still trying to determine the cause of a failure affecting multiple computers in the Russian network ... Since an earlier failure on Monday, thrusters on the space shuttle Atlantis have been fired periodically to help maintain the station's position. The Russian and U.S. space agencies said they could extend Atlantis's mission by one or two days to fix the problem. In the worst-case scenario, NASA said the ISS crew members -- two Russians and an American -- may be evacuated from the station."

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OLD OLD news (5, Informative)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524031)

The computers are dead, not half alive as previously reported.

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/space/2007-06 -15-spacewalk-three_N.htm [usatoday.com]

Re:OLD OLD news (1, Interesting)

Fx.Dr (915071) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524087)

"But Michael Suffredini, space-station program manager, said Friday he did not expect the crew to have to abandon the station. He said the computer failure did not threaten the crew's safety"

Hilarious. I'd say the fact that the shuttle Atlantis' boosters are the only thing keeping the ISS from going ass-over-teakettle is one helluva threat.

Re:OLD OLD news (1)

Boilermaker84 (896573) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524485)

The station has gyroscopes that keep it aligned. Thrusters on the station or shuttle are only required to keep the gyros from getting completely overwhelmed.

Re:OLD OLD news (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524607)

"...the gyroscopes aren't powerful enough to keep the station from drifting out of control when other spacecraft dock to the station or undock from it. Space shuttle Atlantis was already docked to the station when the computer problems began. Atlantis' jet thrusters can serve as a backup to the gyroscopes as long as the shuttle remains parked at the station. But Atlantis must depart no later than Wednesday or it will run out of fuel. Atlantis' departure itself would be too much of a disturbance for the gyroscopes to handle." Yes, the ISS has gyros, albeit ones that - for all intents and purposes - don't work. The second Atlantis leaves, should the thrusters from The Soyuz and The Progress not be sufficient to stabilize the ISS, it's a goner.

Re:OLD OLD news (2, Interesting)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524803)

Ouch... Even if I realize the ISS project itself has become a bit controversial with the funding and its goals (although its funding is nothing in comparison to so many other int'l projects I think the world could be without), this is sending some chills to me, if not only because of the economical catastrophy it would be for NASA, Russia, and the international space community with all that money down the drain if we would experience a worst case scenario here. Jeez, it's 2007 and the STS and ISS projects Were to be more or less finalized in 2010. It would be like being hit in the face on the finish line and I perhaps unlike any economical problem the space science community had experienced before. I really, really, hope they will get this sorted in the time that is running uncomfortably short. I may be emo, but as a space geek, my heart is with the NASA engineers at this point. :-(

Re:OLD OLD news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19525489)

Why does the image of a guy in a space suit stapling down a blanket to the outside of the shuttle with a medical stapler scare me so much.. I mean its just a critical component that keeps the hot hot hot reentry temps from making them join the columbia crew. I hope the stapler really does the trick. We don't need to lose any more people- especially if they do evac the ISS for some reason.

Thanks for the link.

It's an old bug (0)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524039)

First spotted on the USS Lexington.

Twit moderators (1, Offtopic)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524137)

It was NOT informative at all. It's not even remotely true.

Get a clue before moderating.

Re:Twit moderators (1)

masdog (794316) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524191)

Eh...it must be mods-on-crack day for this thread. Someone marked an almost obligatory quote from Armageddon as redundant.

Re:Twit moderators (2, Funny)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524307)

Now THAT'S funny. I have no idea what's up with the mods lately, but they've been acting incredibly random at times.

I should probably keep that in mind for now. I was looking at your post and trying to figure out exactly which Lexington you were talking about. The last USS Lexington I'm aware of was an old Essex-class WWII carrier that was decommissioned in 1991. (Named in honor of the first operational carrier in the US Fleet; valiantly lost in the Battle of the Coral Sea.) Given the age of the carrier, I was doubting that she had any computers running her primary systems.

I figured that everyone else must know something I didn't since you getting modded up! :P

Re:Twit moderators (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524389)

I suspect they meant the USS Yorktown [wikipedia.org].

Re:Twit moderators (1)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524471)

Hopefully he did not mean the USS Yamato (NCC-71807).

Now THAT ship had computer issues...

Thank you (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524513)

Brain fart, mea culpa.

Corrections always appreciated -- I make enough mistakes that Shannon's Theorem indicates a serious need for error correction.

Re:Twit moderators (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524533)

That was my first thought as well, but in that case it would have been "Funny" not "Informative". Unless the mods really believe that the ISS uses Windows for its critical systems. (And before anyone posts links, the astronauts' laptops are independent of the ISS's navigational computers. According to the various articles on this incident, the navcomps run Russian-made software.)

Re:Twit moderators (-1, Offtopic)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524441)

I've seen the lamest stuff moderated "informative". But this is a new low: an obvious joke taken as informational.

Our basic problem is that our moderator pool sucks. It was a big mistake to move it to the very middle of the bell curve (rated by how much you participate), since that cuts out all the regular users with a stake in keeping up a quality site. Instead we get moderators (like this one) who barely read the items they moderate.

I said as much to CmdrTaco in an email exchange. His answer: people need to metamoderate more.

My response was that I used to metamoderate as often as I was allowed. It was fun. But now moderations are so lame, I can barely bring myself to do it. The fact is, if you have a lot of idiots moderating, kicking a few out of the pool makes no difference. The internet has an infinite supply of idiots.

Rob never responded.

Re:Twit moderators (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524543)

I've seen the lamest stuff moderated "informative". But this is a new low: an obvious joke taken as informational.

Keep in mind that karma points for "funny" no longer count toward the overall score. Mods who want to show the poster some appreciation by giving them countable points will mod it up another way.

Re:Twit moderators (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524963)

So instead of being stupid, they're gaming the system? Oh, now I feel much better...

Re:Twit moderators (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525949)

So instead of being stupid, they're gaming the system? Oh, now I feel much better...
Of course that will bite them in Meta-Moderation. They should use "Underrated" for that.

Re:Twit moderators (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526219)

That's the theory. The reality is that the metamod system doesn't seem to do much to weed out bad moderators.

Re:Twit moderators (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524585)

I said as much to CmdrTaco in an email exchange. His answer: people need to metamoderate more.

Do you even have a meta-moderation link? Mine disappeared with the emergence of the firehose feature.

Re:Twit moderators (0)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524721)

Do you even have a meta-moderation link? Mine disappeared with the emergence of the firehose feature.

I still get the metamod link, but much less frequently.

It's sad, as much as I approve of the Firehose, metamoderation is MUCH more important.

The metamod link should be persistent any time you can metamod.

Twit readers (1)

David Gould (4938) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525025)

But this is a new low: an obvious joke taken as informational.
You've apparently not noticed that sometimes giving an "Informative", "Insightful", or "Interesting" mod to an "obvious joke" can be "obviously" intended to enhance the humor-value of the joke, and/or to be a joke in its own right.

Re:Twit readers (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525629)

So, screwing with the mod system is OK, as long as it's funny? Then you'll be amused, rather than offended, when I call you an asshole.

Yeah, but this time ... (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526449)

someone brought Knoppix. How else did they get boot and communications? Too bad no one had one of those back when Lexington had to be towed back to port.

Re:Yeah, but this time ... (1)

dedazo (737510) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526647)

someone brought Knoppix

Though in this case the OS in question is irrelevant, I doubt how "Knoppix" would have prevented this [wikipedia.org]:

In September 21, 1997 while on maneuvers off the coast of Cape Charles, Virginia, a crew member entered a zero into a database field causing a divide by zero error in the ship's Remote Data Base Manager which brought down all the machines on the network, causing the ship's propulsion system to fail.

I just don't see how the operating system plays into this.

Oh, wait. You are going with that meme that Windows NT caused the ship to fail. HAHAHAHA! Wow, I get it. Very clever.

I blame W.G.A. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524069)

They forgot to register their Vista ISS edition copy of Windows and their 30 day trial is over.

There are times... (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524073)

In the worst-case scenario, NASA said the ISS crew members -- two Russians and an American -- may be evacuated from the station.
...when having an overly spacious craft can come in handy. Should an evacuation be necessary, at least we know the Shuttle can carry them all.

Of course, if we launched enough smaller ships to where we had multiple birds in the air at any given time, space for evacuation wouldn't be a problem. Just catch the next transport.

Which reminds me, did NASA ever get around to installing the emergency escape craft? I know it was supposed to be a stripped-down capsule, but I don't remember if they just decided to keep something docked at all times instead.

Re:There are times... (5, Informative)

cmowire (254489) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524423)

In the early days (Space Station Freedom) they figured that if anything bad happened, they'd just send up another shuttle to rescue them, so the nodes were designed as secure refuges for the several-day wait for the next shuttle to show up.

Eventually NASA realized that wouldn't work, so they went through a series of different designs. Initially, they were going to dust-off the Apollo Capsule design and use that. Then they got creative.

The design, as specced when they started launching, was to put a lifting body capsule specifically designed for the purpose. Until it was ready, they'd just use Soyuz capsules.

Then the special purpose vehicle became a general purpose vehicle, so that they didn't have to worry about the shuttle nearly as much.

Then the Columbia blew up and the general purpose vehicle became our last best hope for a space program, but as a dusted-off Apollo Capsule instead of a fancy lifting body.

Now, they just dock a single Soyuz capsule. Eventually they will have a pair of Soyuz capsules docked. Which is fine, it's just that the Russians have a habit of abusing their position whenever they are the only way up and down from the ISS.

Also, note that if the goal is to get somebody *down* from orbit, it isn't too hard. A heat-shield, a space-suit, a nitrogen-gas thruster, and a parachute. Maybe a cheezy visual alignment aid to get the thruster in the right point and a map to make sure you land on land. A few hundered pounds of hardware, per person. The problem has always been feature-creep more than anything else.

Re:There are times... (3, Informative)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524609)

Also, note that if the goal is to get somebody *down* from orbit, it isn't too hard. A heat-shield, a space-suit, a nitrogen-gas thruster, and a parachute. Maybe a cheezy visual alignment aid to get the thruster in the right point and a map to make sure you land on land. A few hundered pounds of hardware, per person. The problem has always been feature-creep more than anything else.

they're actually working on that. there was an interesting article in popsci in the latest issue. they're planning to have the first actual jump-from-orbit test by 2009.

Re:There are times... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526083)

they're planning to have the first actual jump-from-orbit test by 2009.

Do you seriously believe that a human being is going to aerobrake from orbit to landing with just a pressure suit in two years time? Doesn't sound likely to me.

If such a system was available nobody would choose to use Soyuz.

Re:There are times... (1)

644bd346996 (1012333) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526579)

What do you think sounds so hard about it? The current record skydive is 20 miles, and the PopSci article is about plans for a 60 mile dive. They say the dive would take 10 minutes, with a maximum external temp of 465 F and a maximum acceleration of 4.4Gs. They only plan to do a 120,000 foot jump in 2009, with the 60 mile jump two years later. They don't have a set timetable for true de-orbit jumps.

To me, the least realistic bit is that they plan to use Carmack's rocket to get up.

Re:There are times... (1)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525803)

but as a dusted-off Apollo Capsule instead of a fancy lifting body.

Actually, the Apollo Capsule is a lifting body. It was designed that way intentionally, and its properties as a lifting body were exploited as part of a normal Apollo mission profile. Fancy lifting body indeed!

Re:There are times... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526045)

Actually, the Apollo Capsule is a lifting body

So is every golf ball. A lifting body capable of subsonic flight is a different matter.

Re:There are times... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526249)

A heat-shield, a space-suit, a nitrogen-gas thruster, and a parachute.

To get an accurate landing point my impression is that you need more than 100 m/s of delta V to start re-entry. I can't see a cold gas thruster doing the job. If you want something lightweight, through, how about a parachute? I am thinking of a huge lightweight sheet of Mylar or a similar material, similar to a solar sail. Atmospheric drag at ISS altitude is significant and might be enough to keep the parachute inflated.

Re:There are times... (1)

Boilermaker84 (896573) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524517)

In case of abandonment, the shuttle would only return 7. The other three members would return on the Soyuz that is always docked for the purpose of evacuation should it ever be necessary.

Re:There are times... (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524927)

Should an evacuation be necessary, at least we know the Shuttle can carry them all.
The ISS crew would be very nervous if they had to rely on the shuttle for emergency evacuation. Even when it's not grounded (and not killing its crew), the shuttle fleet doesn't visit the station that often. Good thing somebody thought to supply the ISS with a stash of Soyuz capsules [wikipedia.org] for emergencies.

Re:There are times... (1)

Titoxd (1116095) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526091)

As it has been pointed out before, the shuttle can only carry seven astronauts. It isn't like you can just put the extra ones on the cargo bay and bring them home "on the back of the pick-up truck" - the STS comes into Earth's atmosphere at Mach 25, and performs a series of rolls akin to driving on a dirt road. Only that at Mach 25, the bumps that you feel when driving on the dirt road are life-threatening, so you need to properly secure all astronauts or cosmonauts for the penetration of Earth's atmosphere. Hence the big fuss about STS-125 [wikipedia.org].

If I were a member of the ISS crew, I'd be happy if I had a spare Soyuz capsule docked somewhere nearby.

Re:There are times... (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526787)

Which reminds me, did NASA ever get around to installing the emergency escape craft? I know it was supposed to be a stripped-down capsule, but I don't remember if they just decided to keep something docked at all times instead.

The X-38 [wikipedia.org] (coincidentally, manufactured by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites) was supposed to be the prototype for this. After a number of successful drop tests, the program was canceled in 2002.

My Low-Tech Troubleshooting Technique (0)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524237)

I simply replace one part at a time (hardware), or segment off functions (software), and then try again. If it works then I've narrowed the hunt down.

Of course, if one isn't permited to replace parts, alter functions, or even examine it unless you are Moscow ground control, then "Houston, we have a problem".

Re:My Low-Tech Troubleshooting Technique (1)

eln (21727) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524499)

Sure, but it's a little more effort to go down to the local Fry's for a new memory stick when you're orbiting 200 miles above the Earth.

Redundancy Required (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524731)

Sure, but it's a little more effort to go down to the local Fry's for a new memory stick when you're orbiting 200 miles above the Earth.

Every system I've worked on required redundancy for precisely that reason. And that's the real lesson to be learned from this incident. It's not about computers, or software, or even solar panels, it is about compromising the neccessary quality & efficiency, for outdated political & proprietary reasons.

Re:Redundancy Required (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19525153)

Lots of redundancy on these Russian computer systems already... there are 3 of each. But all got hit by the power surge or whatever knocked them out.

Guess at least one of them should have been kept in storage instead.

Re:My Low-Tech Troubleshooting Technique (1)

dr_dank (472072) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524653)

unless you are Moscow ground control, then "Houston, we have a problem".

Shouldn't that be "Moscow, we have a problemski."?

Funny (4, Funny)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525219)

unless you are Moscow ground control, then "Houston, we have a problem".

Shouldn't that be "Moscow, we have a problemski."?
Another good one I've seen around - In Soviet Russia, YOU stablize gyroscopes.

Re:My Low-Tech Troubleshooting Technique (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526495)

You do realize, do you not, that his is not some PC, but a dedicated processor, conformally-coated, probably in a hermtically-sealed enclosure with inert gasses, right? It's not like swapping out parts on your Dell.

        Brett

ISS showing it's age (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524267)

Looking at the website it looks like the ISS is 8.5 years old. While may not seem that long ago, to put it into perspective, 400mhz CPU where the thing back then. Look at how much has changed in that time period. Perhaps it's time for a system update. (not trolling being serious)

Think of it this way, if you where in the hospital on life support would you want the latest tech or something that powers a cell phone now adays?

Re:ISS showing it's age (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524327)

The cell phone CPU please.

Processor speed is irrelevant to whether or not a device is reliable, but having an older device suggests that the bugs
are more likely to be fixed or at least known by the staff. CPUs don't really wear out anyway.

No (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524331)

If you have a critical system that does everything you need and runs fine, never update it.

Re:No (1)

jshriverWVU (810740) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524367)

But it "didnt run fine" so now would be a good time to update :) Agree had nothing gone wrong it's best to leave working alone.

Re:No (1)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524855)

When is "now" then? They first need to send up the hardware upgrades. If these computers would stay failed, they won't have time to even schedule, prepare, and send a shuttle up for it, much less install the stuff. The Shuttle need to leave in a few days due to fuel constraints, regardless of their status up there. This is absolutely not a situation where NASA and Russia have free hands to do such far encompassing goals in case the current hardware would remain busted. *Maybe* if they would get this sorted though, but I think the ISS project is far from budgeted for any major hardware upgrades.

Re:ISS showing it's age (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524375)

Think of it this way, if you where in the hospital on life support would you want the latest tech or something that powers a cell phone now adays?

???

I'd take something that powers a cellphone myself. As would many doctors and technicians. Sometimes thorough testing and reliability are more important than cutting edge features and performance.

IBM AP-101 [nasa.gov] for the win!

Re:ISS showing it's age (1)

dropadrop (1057046) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524385)

Think of it this way, if you where in the hospital on life support would you want the latest tech or something that powers a cell phone now adays?

Well that depends. If the device powering the life support device had a good enough track record, I would definitely not want to switch to something newer. Sure computers are far more powerful, but maintaining a life support system would not require a lot of performance.

If they have spare parts, and the current computer does the job, there is no need to replace it. It's not like they are playing Quake on it?

I'll take the cellphone. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524417)

Trusting your porn collection to the latest crap is one thing; trusting lives to it? Never.

Not to mention, show me the life support machine that needs, say for example, a core 2 duo processor with a GeForce 92842984984 Tritanium EE Xtremeeeeeeeeeeee. Adding unnecessary cruft and complexity tends to diminish relability, not increase it.

Re:ISS showing it's age (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524519)

Think of it this way, if you where in the hospital on life support would you want the latest tech or something that powers a cell phone now adays?

the cell phone thanks. new things always have bugs.

also, for in-space use, they need to modify the chip to be radiation hardened, which takes awhile, along with further testing, etc. etc.

Re:ISS showing it's age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524631)

I'd want the processor that's less powerful than my phone, but has gone through years and years of testing and QA.

Stop thinking like a techie, with the latest and greatest everything, and start thinking like a real engineer.

Re:ISS showing it's age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524667)

No contest. something that now powers the cellphone. Preferably a really old one.

I only want proven and thouroughly tested techology in my life support. (Unless I am despearate and there is no other choice)

I think the ISS designers think the same about their billion dollar investment. Actually, I bet that most computer technology on the ISS is based on much older stuff than 8.5 years, exactly fot this reason.

Re:ISS showing it's age (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524689)

Bullshit! If i'm in the hospital on life support a want something that works. No matter if it's old or new, obsolete or modern.
Old obsolete solutions are sometimes the most reliables ones.
What is needed here is an investigation and a fix and it is exactely what is being done by now.
For those who suggest average Joe home-pc trubleshooting thechniques, try too imagine that ISS is not exactly the same as your mother basement and BTW people who steer the trubleshooting are probabely ones of the smartest and thechnically savviest on the planet.

Re:ISS showing it's age (1)

peterjb31 (1108781) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525583)

I doubt you can even get 400 MHz in space. The computers in space equipment are dates because you can't have as complex chips in space due to radiation issues, or so I've been told.

computers crash? (1, Troll)

drewsup (990717) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524273)

Well, I guess we all know what OS they're NOT running!

Re:computers crash? (1)

Skapare (16644) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525955)

And which OS could that possibly be? I know of no OS that has never crashed.

Now if the ISS started sending out flare messages advertising some sex enhancement drug, then, yeah, I could narrow it down to a particular OS.

Damn the Hollywood! Aiding the enemy!! (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524297)

This is what happens when these ungodly Hollywood types with hyperactive imagination give ideas to our enemies. Why did they show that one way you could sabotage the spacecraft of an alien race would be by uploading a virus and crippling the computer systems? Now see what happened once the Klingons got the picture, so to speak. They are using the techniques developed by us against us.

Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Russia (5, Informative)

simos (84652) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524325)

MOSCOW, June 15 (Itar-Tass) -- A fivefold over-voltage resultant from the unfolding of extra U.S. solar batteries caused a computer failure at the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS), a source at the Energia Aerospace Corporation told Itar-Tass on Friday.

"The power units of six computers of the Russian segment had a breakdown because of the over-voltage. The American partners unfolded new solar batteries on June 11," the source said.

The German-made computers withstood the 2.5-time over-voltage last September, when the first segments of solar batteries were unfolded. The June 11 over-voltage hit the computers hard, he said.

While experts are trying to reanimate the computers, new power units will be delivered to the ISS onboard a Progress freighter, Energia General Director Nikolai Sevastyanov told a Friday press conference. He said the new power units would be better protected.

The Progress will be launched two weeks earlier than planned because of the ISS situation. Initially, the launch was scheduled for August 6. The U.S. segment of the ISS will provide for the station's orientation in the meantime, and engines of the docked Progress will be used if necessary.

The ISS crew evacuation is not on the agenda, although a relevant plan has been drafted. Some of the computers of the Russian segment are still operational.

Source: http://www.itar-tass.com/eng/level2.html?NewsID=11 633186&PageNum=0 [itar-tass.com]

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (3, Funny)

Timesprout (579035) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524637)

Nice attemp at a cover up. We all know the computers were really confiscated by the RIAA for filesharing.

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (1)

EvilMagnus (32878) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524739)

So basically they fried the power supplies on a bunch of computers. Doesn't matter how 'clean' the voltage is, if there's simply more than the power supplies can take. Sounds like they're hosed unless they can install the software on other hardware and get it working.

Don't these folks have UPS or surge protectors? :-)

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525293)

Wow.

Single-point-of-failure, anyone?

I wonder why they didn't all die, though.

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (2, Interesting)

EvilMagnus (32878) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525525)

I suspect they had six machines on the same circuit (probably all in one of the Russian modules). One or more of those machines controlled the thrusters. They all got fried. The Russian control software probably works fine on any one of those six Russian computers ... all of which got fried. ;-)

They didn't all die because there's very few disasters on the ISS that would produce near-instantaneous calamity. This particular one means no thrusters, which isn't usually a problem ( gyros work for minor correction ) - it's only bad because if it's not fixed in time for the Shuttle's departure, the shuttle's undocking will disrupt the ISS's position beyond the gyros ability to compensate.

Where's the airgap? (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525667)

I ain't buying this. Supposedly three redundant systems, a previous record of over voltage, and NONE of the three systems was protected with an airgap, ie, pull the plug until the new power situation was tested?

Me smell a ratski here. There is something they still aren't telling us, or there's some dumb clucks running things.

Re:Where's the airgap? (1)

EvilMagnus (32878) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526227)

Most likely the media is just incompletely reporting the situation due to the usual combination of time constraints and journalistic imperfection. No conspiracy, but we're just not getting the precise details of who/what/why.

I can also easily believe that they didn't think to disconnect vital systems before plugging stuff in. This kind of cross-national project management is tricky at the best of times. Doubly so when you have an American project impacting on Russian hardware.

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (1)

Subgenius (95662) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525027)

Hmmm, a current-inrush I can see, but over-voltage? Someone didn't study the blueprints. I'd say inexcusable, but hey, I'm
a NASA fan, so I won't. yet.

Don't Play The Blame Game (1)

Nymz (905908) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525069)

Troubleshooting can be pretty difficult to do, and problems can be expected to occur on every system, but what's important is that you are permitted to fix the problem.

Car analogy. What if one day you got a flat, but the manufacturer had placed DRM locknuts in order to keep the tire on, which essentialy prevented you from fixing the tire yourself, without taking it back to the original dealer.

In that case, would you be content to listen to him blame how poor the roads are, or would you make sure the next car you invested in, didn't have a defective-by-design design?

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (1)

jae471 (1102461) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525109)

What idiot designed this system? Seriously. If this article is to be believed, then there were serious screw-ups at the very initial planning stages.

It shouldn't matter if there's 1 set of panels, or eight. The main trunk for the ISS should always operate at a constant voltage; the extra panels should only increase the available amperage.

If anything, extra panels should equal more stability, since it would be less likely to suffer a voltage drop when an appliance turns on.

Further, there should be regulators/surge protectors at the initial power coupling, in between modules, at the computers' power hookup, and within the computers' power supply.

Lastly, why the hell did they not account for this after the first spike?

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526313)

What idiot designed this system? Seriously. If this article is to be believed, then there were serious screw-ups at the very initial planning stages.

Yes, almost as if they Hubbled it up.

Sorry about that, Edwin.

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (1)

Kenshin (43036) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525165)

Even *I* have a surge-suppressor on my expensive electronics at home...

This is a massive oversight. First, (I suppose) the Russians didn't have any sort of surge protection on their critical systems. Second, the NASA engineers didn't do their research and understand what effect plugging more power into the station would have. (It's Tool Time with Tim Allen...)

This seems like a really amateur mistake.

Re:Over-voltage causes computer failure at ISS Rus (1)

ajlitt (19055) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526383)

"Surge suppressors" as found on your PC are not designed to protect against steady-state overvoltage. In fact, most don't kick in until three to five times line voltage. Even then, they only act to shunt surges across the line. With a constant overvoltage in their operating range, they will cook themselves and fail quickly.

What they could (and may) have done is have a crowbar circuit that would draw extra current when run above a preset voltage to cause any fuses upstream to trip.

This is old news - Status update (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524419)

This is still a dynamic situation. Moscow only has line-of-sight communications with the ISS, so their interaction with the on-board computer system is limited to certain time windows. Over the last few days, the ISS computers have been going flaky, on and off. Since this article was written, they've completely died. However, as of a few minutes ago, they have successfully booted 2 out of 3 lanes in the terminal system, which is way more progress than they've been making previously. Just prior, they disconnected a power cable which extends to where the next solar panel array will be installed. This may have been the source of the problem, as the computers started acting up right around the time the cable was initially connected. If you're more interested in up-to-date information regarding the situation, don't turn to CBS. Try www.spaceflightnow.com (realtime updates).

Crash and Burn (2, Informative)

Howitzer86 (964585) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524575)

Watch, as all your tax dollars go down the drain.

Assuming the computers cannot be restarted in a day or two, the shuttle and station crew will have to depart. Without those computers, the station will be put in an ever increasing spin due to tidal forces. Once the shuttle leaves, it will never be able to dock with the station again.

Eventually, the orbit will decay and cause the station to enter an uncontrolled reentry. By uncontrolled I mean hundreds of tons of flaming white hot metal could end up crashing in a heavily populated area.

I hope it doesn't, but you never know.

Re:Crash and Burn (1)

phayes (202222) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525621)

Nice try chicken little, but tidal forces would tend to align ISS' axis of widest weight distribution with the center of the earth & not make it spin. Pull the other one...

Re:Crash and Burn (1)

traveller604 (961720) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525775)

I have all the faith in about the smartest people on Earth.. they'll fix it. 0h noes I'm a slashdot expert and it'll burn don't get much credit from me :)

I figured it had to be the new panels. (2, Funny)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524601)

don't Russian computers run on metric electricity?

Re:I figured it had to be the new panels. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19525967)

no it's metric electricity that runs on computers

The obvious answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19524679)

Why don't they just divert power from the shields to the life support system?

Why not an American computer? (2, Funny)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 6 years ago | (#19524865)

This was the question that was asked on a locally hosted talk radio show yesterday. I called in and explained that if it was an American computer, it would probably be running Windows. I asked if they had heard of the "Blue Screen of Death", which they had. I explained that deploying Windows in a life-support function would give new meaning to the term. Then the host, intelligent guy that he is, said, "But they could use a Mac". I said, "Or, better yet Linux".

Re:Why not an American computer? (1)

complexmath (449417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525453)

Are you suggesting that NASA has approved the use of Windows on mission critical systems?

Re:Why not an American computer? (1)

networkzombie (921324) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525769)

Why did this get modded up? Does the_rajah think that computers running Linux can handle power fluctuations better than Windows boxen? Is it insightful to think that Linux on the ISS would have been provided by the Russians with a more apt power supply? Perhaps modding Funny would be more appropriate. Does anyone know what OS is (was) actually running on these computers? I know. I know... Welcome to Slashdot. I don't mind bashing Windows, but not just for the sake of bashing.

Those "Russian" computers on the ISS..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19526177)

...are not really all that Russian at all. They are actually built in Germany by the European Space Agency. [msn.com] and they use a radiation-hardened version of the Sun SPARC V7 processor called the "ERC32", and they run an embedded firmware system that runs on top of VxWorks.

That's right, they're basically Sparcstations running realtime unix.

so if it falls from teh sky... (2, Interesting)

corporatewhore (308338) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525589)

...the last of the hopi indian prophecies will have come to pass...

            "And this is the Ninth and Last Sign: You will hear of a dwelling-place in the heavens, above the earth, that shall fall with a great crash. It will appear as a blue star. Very soon after this, the ceremonies of my people will cease.

Closer to solved? (4, Informative)

Boilermaker84 (896573) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525633)

Spaceflightnow.com (http://www.spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts117/0706 14computers/index7.html [spaceflightnow.com]) is reporting that bypassing a suspect power supply (does not indicate what the power supply is/if it's related to the new panels or not) resulted in 4 of the 6 computers coming back up and restoration of 2 of the 3 guidance lanes.

let's make this clear on the OS (1)

cspeye (823294) | more than 6 years ago | (#19525941)

This being slashdot, I know the first thing everyone thinks about when someone says "computer" is "OOOOOH is it a windows mac or linux????" You're thinking way too narrowly about the definition of a computer. Chances are, they have a custom-made OS, or even no OS at all (i.e. no need to overclock)--the truster control software might just run directly on the CPU. In fact, the CPU might not even be what you usually hear--I'm quite certain it's not a modern Intel/AMD processor (probably more processing power than is needed). Actually I just did some research, and they just use a bunch of 386s (http://www.dansdata.com/spacecomp.htm), clearly nothing modern. btw, this doesn't at all imply that it needs to run a consumer OS.

Re:let's make this clear on the OS (1)

PrefersVMS (968732) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526231)

Knowing the Russians propensity for acquiring new ideas (check out their versions of the F15 & F18), they probably "borrowed" a pirated copy of Windows 3.11, translated it into Russian, and applied numerous Microsoft updates to it. Now it needs either more quarters or another update before it can finally work. If we really wanted to FIX the damn thing, we'd rip out the old box, slip in an Alpha, then install a GOOD operating system (OpenVMS) and everything would work. After all, it is a system designed by Engineers, for Engineers, and works as designed. For long periods of time. WITHOUT the need to reboot. (Are you listening Micro$oft?) But that's just my opinion.

Possible Cause of Failure - Analog Computers? (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#19526951)

The U.S. space agency and Russian officials are still trying to determine the cause of a failure affecting multiple computers in the Russian network

I seem to recall that the Russians had a penchant, dating from the early days of their space program, to design, build, and use analog computers [wikipedia.org] as either backups to main digital computers OR in embedded subsystems such as attitude control, oxygen generation, and the like. It is interesting to note that the failure occurred soon after a new solar panel installation was completed, thereby increasing the amount of current flowing across the power bus. Is it possible that analog computers that were taking a direct shunt of that power as an input could have been gradually fried under the increased load? An interesting question to be sure, perhaps a more well versed engineer among us can answer this one.
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