back to article Software update knocks out Space Station communications

A software update took down the main communications system for the International Space Station on Tuesday, leaving astronauts reliant on 1960s technology to phone home to systems administrators. "Flight controllers were in the process of updating the station’s command and control software and were transitioning from the …

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  1. Simon Harris
    Alert

    Hmmm...

    The new software kills the main communications system and they have to rely on 50 year old technology?

    Are they sure a Cylon virus wasn't involved?

    1. Delbert
      Happy

      Re: Hmmm...

      I would be less than surprised if it was the flash player update that took it down :-)

  2. Charles 9
    Meh

    Oops.

    Sometimes, even the best laid plans can go awry. But give NASA credit for keeping up with their "Steely-Eyed Space Men" mystique. So something went wrong; they already had the backup plan in place. A few quick tweaks and they're back in business. In the annals of space travel, this was the furthest thing from a panic attack; more like one of those many "Oops" moments that occur all the time; annoying, but planned for in any event.

    1. Flip

      Re: Oops.

      I believe the term is "Steely-eyed Missile Man". Ref:

      http://zhurnaly.com/cgi-bin/wiki/Steely_Eyed_Missile_Man

      http://airspeedonline.blogspot.ca/2006/05/airspeed-in-brief-steely-eyed-missile.html

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lesson learned.

    This is why you shouldn't update router firmware wirelessly. Shouldn't take for granted that communication is always going to be perfect,

    1. Random K
      Headmaster

      Re: Lesson learned.

      I couldn't agree more with the router firmware bit, but wouldn't a simple MD5 checksum sort out any issues with improperly transmitted packets? I mean hell even Android phones use these for ROM updates. One has to hope the IIS is packing tech at least on par with a $99 mobile. Probably more likely down to incomplete testing (due to say budget cuts, outsourcing, etc.) or a few too many flipped bits (cosmic rays and all that). Just my $0.02...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lesson learned.

        My satellite receiver buffers the whole firmware update and checksum before it does any flashing. That requires that the TV programming be interrupted before flashing and rebooted. Then there is a self test before it gets back to business. Looks like NASA was trying keep their seamless communication going while updating at same time. It's beyond my comprehension on how they do it. But one thing I know it was OE.

        1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

          Re: Lesson learned.

          Considering the fact that NASA has a redundancy habituation twice or preferably, thrice over, it's imponderable.

          However, I now know where a new position in information security is present. ;)

      2. Captain Scarlet

        Re: Lesson learned.

        Not sure how quickly MD5 checksum's would take on their hardware, as we have seen from the articles of 486's being used in space.

        Also might not have the storage to upload to storage md5 checksum it then load it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Captain Scarlet - Re: Lesson learned.

          Storage ? Is that something like a microSD card ?

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Lesson learned.

      I entirely agr......

  4. Mr Young
    Go

    For what it's worth..

    On the balance of engineering pain I'd say upgradeable code is slightly better than committing to MASK ROM!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Fail Whale makes it into orbit

    I wonder if it brought a bowl of petunias...

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Re: The Fail Whale makes it into orbit

      ISS hangs in the sky in much the same way that bricked hardware doesn't. Until today.

  6. Roger Stenning
    Pint

    "Nothing could possibly go wrong"

    Ah, now aboot that famous Canadian sense o'hoomor there, then, eh, eh ;-)

    1. Denarius Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: "Nothing could possibly go wrong"

      which indicates to me that fail was expected. Sarcasm, the ability to tell the truth others don't want to hear according to some humourist. We all know USA institutions are not run by process droids, don't we ?

      1. Dom 3

        Re: "Nothing could possibly go wrong"

        Quite. That's not "tempting fate", that's knowing that *something* is going to fail.

  7. Gordon Fecyk

    Weren't they running NT4 SP7, the only known installation ever?

    NT 4.0 SP7 available, but not on planet Earth

  8. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    backup

    They still have ham radio gear on the ISS, so they'll never be that short of people to talk to/though.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: backup

      Or they can just tie a message to a rock and drop it out of the window. That will probably get noticed

      1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

        Re: backup

        So, that explains that rock that caused some issues in Russia, a few days ago... ;)

      2. cortland
        Boffin

        Re: backup

        Given orbital characteristics, they'd have to throw it pretty hard.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE. Re, backup

    In Soviet Russia, communication knocks out YOU!!!

    I'd have just used a 1W laser directed groundwards, someone would see that for sure.

    BTW did anyone else see that strange yellow light in the general vicinity of Triangulum, at about 19.22 yesterday evening?

    Looked like an Iridium flare but painfully bright, no idea what that was.

    Lasted a good 15 seconds then faded to nothing.

    AC/DC 6EQUJ5

  10. Electric sheep
    Stop

    If it aint broke

    Don't fix it.

  11. Danny 14

    seems like a nice media angle TBH. Comms down but the backups are very resilient. It does seem odd that the updates arent sent then checked against checksums before deployment though.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      > Comms down but the backups are very resilient

      For the price, you would hope so.

      How many hundred times over budget up there? And then they can use the military comms. And then they can drop to ham radio. And then they can use morse with the attitude thrusters.

  12. Benchops

    It probably went something like this... (we've all been there)

    bob@nasa-gc% scp ./netcard-firmware-upgrade.sh admin@nasa-iss.local:/tmp

    bob@nasa-gc% ssh admin@nasa-iss

    admin@nasa-iss% cd /tmp

    admin@nasa-iss% . ./netcard-firmware-upgrade.sh

    admin@nasa-iss% /sbin/ifconfig eth0 down

    Connection to nasa-iss.local closed

    bob@nasa-gc% /sbin/ifconfig eth0 up

    SIOCSIFFLAGS: Operation not permitted

    ...

    <SHIT>

  13. PeterM42
    Mushroom

    And don't forget.....

    .......this IS rocket science (well, sort of). Always have a plan "B"

  14. Jon Green
    Coat

    Nasa "is hosting a series of media events on the station this week."

    Blimey, how do I get a press pass?

    And a spacesuit?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, good old 60 technology!

    Always reliable! NASA should better try to find some of those engineers and hire them before it is too late.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmm

    So if I can get my experimental WEAV based flying disk with the LENR drive working in time then I can go visit :-)

    That ought to be entertaining.

    "Hey, there's a UFO outside"....

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