Computer Troubles Persist at Space Station : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Computer Troubles Persist at Space Station By Kristen Hays Associated Press Writer Published: Apr 28, 2001

SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) - NASA engineers struggled with computer problems aboard the international space station Saturday while a Russian Soyuz rocket carrying the world's first paying space tourist streaked toward the 240-mile-high outpost. NASA hoped to have the computers working in time for space shuttle Endeavour to undock from the station Sunday to avoid an orbital traffic jam when the Soyuz arrives on Monday.

If the problems persist, Russian space officials have agreed to keep the Soyuz in a holding pattern, possibly until Tuesday.

"They won't dock with the shuttle there. There's no doubt about this," said NASA representative Michael Baker, who watched the Soyuz lift off Saturday from Baikonur, Kazakstan.

The problematic command-and-control computers are critical to operating the station's new billion-dollar robot arm.

Early Saturday, the main computer was working, but its two backups remained down. One backup, believed to have a failed hard drive, was replaced by a spare computer at the station, and Mission Control was loading software into the replacement.

The computer failures have delayed plans for the new arm to hand off its 3,000-pound packing crate to a smaller arm attached to the shuttle. Mission Control hoped to complete the handoff Saturday if at least two computers were working.

Other tests of the new arm were scrapped with time running out.

"We're still trying to find the smoking gun in what caused our initial set of problems, and until we get that smoking gun identified, we're going to take things slow and easy and not do any operations that aren't 100 percent mandatory for a safe operation of the station," said Wayne Hale, a Mission Control representative.

U.S. astronaut Susan Helms, aboard the station for a 4 1/2-month stay with Russian commander Yuri Usachev and U.S. astronaut Jim Voss, said the problem computers do not affect other station computers or operations.

The shuttle and the Soyuz could both dock at the station, but if the Soyuz were to dock while the shuttle was there, it would come within 20 feet of it. Flight director Phil Engelauf called that "uncomfortably close," given potential for radio interference and thruster contamination.

Russia said it was unwilling to postpone the Soyuz mission, as NASA had requested, because it needs to replace the space station's escape craft by the end of the month. The Soyuz craft carrying the two cosmonauts and California millionaire Dennis Tito will serve as the new lifeboat and the three will return on the older ship.


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AP-ES-04-28-01 0601EDT

-- Tom Flook (, April 28, 2001


Source: Computer Risks Digest, 3 May 2001


Space Station software problems predicted four years ago

"Philip Gross"

Sat, 28 Apr 2001 15:20:16 -0400

I contributed an article to RISKS on December 8, 1997, (RISKS-19.49) about the enormous risks involved with the software of the International Space Station. 3.5 million lines of code, coming from multiple countries, with little indication of the verification methodologies. In the two subsequent issues RISKS-19.50 and 19.51, anonymous posters with connections to the program agreed with and amplified these concerns.

Now we see that, indeed, difficult-to-diagnose software problems are starting to plague the craft.

"Computer problems have kept the Endeavour at the station longer than expected as astronauts try to carry out operations of a critical robot arm. The ISS has suffered a series of glitches since Tuesday that left ground controllers with only tentative command," says CNN. ( )

The RISKS here involve the well-known dangers of leaving debugging until the system is already in use. Although critical safety and control mechanisms may be compromised until the problems are fixed, "Russian space officials refused to delay Saturday's launch but agreed to put the Soyuz in a holding pattern if the shuttle was still at the space station on Monday. Russia said it had been unwilling to postpone the Soyuz mission because the cosmonauts must replace the space station's escape craft, whose service lifetime expires at the end of the month."

The world's first space tourist may have an interesting ride...

-- Andre Weltman (, May 04, 2001.

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