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NASA tried turning lost spacecraft STEREO-B off and on again... but it didn't work. True story

Anonymous Coward

Yeah, I know how they feel. Remote support sucks.

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Devil

Providing on-site support wouldn’t exactly be fun either

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It might be fun, for the first few hours/days of the trip. Then it becomes gradually worse as temperature and radiation levels climb and the months and years tick by :P

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Pirate

Remote support sucks.

First, they have to call the spacecraft and tell it that they've detected a problem. Then, they have to convince it to install TeamViewer and give them remote access...

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Alert

First, they have to call the spacecraft and tell it that they've detected a problem. Then, they have to convince it to install TeamViewer and give them remote access... and then convince it to give them a valid credit card.

FTFY

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"... and the months and years tick by"

It'd only take a year at most, the worst case would be to maintain your station and wait for earth to come back to you.

That's an experiment I've always wanted to do: Build a space station just outside of earth's gravity well with enough supplies and fuel to maintain position (relative to the sun) and wait for earth to come back around. It'd make for a pretty good experiment to test endurance for a Mars-shot and to test the psychological effects of actually being cut off from communication with Earth for some time (rather than just "don't call us for a while or the experiment will be failure").

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Re: "... and the months and years tick by"

' Build a space station just outside of earth's gravity well with enough supplies and fuel to maintain position (relative to the sun) and wait for earth to come back around'

I'm not a rocket scientist but I'm fairly sure without any orbital speed it'll just fall into the sun, an orbit is just moving sideways so fast you're continually falling towards the object but never hit it. It might work if you set it off in the opposite direction to the Earth and then meet it again in six months.

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Re: "... and the months and years tick by"

"I'm not a rocket scientist but I'm fairly sure without any orbital speed it'll just fall into the sun,"

Perhaps, but I'm thinking that the vast difference in mass would produce a minimal amount of force given that the Earth's mass ratio of 1 : 330,000 with the mass of the Sun versus a space station (going by the mass of the ISS) would have a mass ratio of 1 : 4.75 x 10^24. Given that the distances are equal, I figure that the gravitation force exerted on the station would be 1/14.4 x 10^18 of that of the force exerted upon the earth.

I am going off of knowledge gained from my physics 101 class, I am by no means an expert on astrophysics, so my math may be off...

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Re: "... and the months and years tick by"

If it isn't orbiting, it is falling or leaving - no other choice.

At 940 million km out from the sun (earth orbital distance), you *have* to be moving at 108000 km/h (orbital velocity), or you will be changing distance to the sun (either closer or further away).

And Galileo demonstrated, the acceleration of a falling object is the same independent of the mass of that object.

And how do you plan to "stop" your station in place relative to the sun - after it is launched from earth it is travelling at 108000 km/h around the sun. That is a massive velocity to try to lose. The Juno probe went faster, but it used close-pass gravitational slingshots and time (tears) to trade that existing velocity into a greater velocity in another direction.

Also not a rocket scientist, but physics 201,202 and 203

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Boffin

Re: "... and the months and years tick by"

One way to look at it would be: the gravity felt by your space station would be less than the earth, but because it's mass is smaller than the earth by the same amount, the resultant force is the same.

What you want to do is to set up a burn that leaves you orbiting a bit closer to the sun than the Earth does, so you'll perform a revolution of the sun in just less than a year, whereupon you do a quick burn to get yourself back orbiting the Earth (or you use a transfer ship to do the same thing more efficiently).

PS, if you want a better understanding of things like this, go play Kerbal Space Program, XKCD is right about this.

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Linux

Re: "... and the months and years tick by"

Sorry but I can't resist commenting. Simple physics peeps. Gravitational force is GM1M2/distance squared where G is a constant and M1 and M2 are the masses in question. Since F = ma then if you put this through the wringer what you get is, as demonstrated by NASA on the moon, a feather falls as fast as a rock. So your space station's acceleration towards the sun due to gravity would be the same as earths given the same distance from it.

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The B ark?

See title.

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You have to admire the tenacity with which the NASA engineers continue to create work arounds for problems with spacecraft.

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@Michael; Its even more amazing when you consider how many of these missions they patch are way past their sell by dates but they still keep producing good science.

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Tenacity

You have to admire the tenacity with which the NASA engineers continue to create work arounds for problems with spacecraft.

especially when you consider that it's definitely out of warranty. When my washing machine borked a month after the warranty ran out, the service engineer just drew air over his teeth, muttered something about this sort of fault being a <bad word> to fix, and suggested that I go shopping for a replacement

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Anonymous Coward

You have to admire the tenacity with which the NASA engineers continue to create work arounds for problems with spacecraft.

Yes, they'd make great Windows 10 tech support. But that was evidently NOT designed by rocket scientists.

Joking aside, I agree. I'm constantly amazed at how they coax such faraway kit into working WELL beyond specified lifetime. They clearly have no respect for the principle of planned obsolescence :).

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The thought of Windows 10 written in Fortran has just made my stomach curdle.

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FTFY

The thought of Windows 10 written in Fortran has just made my stomach curdle.

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Re: Tenacity

"When my washing machine borked a month after the warranty ran out"

Unlike spacecraft you're covered by various consumer rights laws in the EU. Even if the warranty is only 12 months, if it broke down like that you'd expect pro-rata repeair cover or trading standards would get involved.

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MS win 10 on it ...

Yes, they'd make great Windows 10 tech support. But that was evidently NOT designed by rocket scientists.

If the craft was running MS Win 10 then down-link would be maxed out by the telemetry channel that goes straight to the NSA - no bandwidth left for scientific data.

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Real programmers

http://web.mit.edu/humor/Computers/real.programmers

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Re: Real programmers

https://xkcd.com/378/

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Nitpick

So the IMU failed and the telemetry system reported evidence of this failure - not that the telemetry system itself failed.

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Bah!

Solar wavelengths and quantums.

FTFY.

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Occam's Razor and STEREO-B

The poor thing was probably overwhelmed by "Upgrade to Windows 10?" nag screens.

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Boffin

Re: Occam's Razor and STEREO-B

I suggest Occam's Razor plus previous experience - 'failing in an unexpected way' and 'incorrect data' hints that the measurements are actually in furlongs per fortnight.

Obviously they need to hack the code with a patch that includes the El Reg Standards Converter. Job done, just post me the nobel laureate, I'm not one for ceremonies.

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Happy

Time for an early version of R2D2?

One of the major obstacles with fixing these sorts of problems is that you have to use the broken device to fix the broken device. Which may be out of power, turned the wrong way, covered in dust etc. Wouldn't it be interesting to have a relatively simple repair bot onboard? Something that can manipulate fasteners, swap cables around. Jack into com ports and restart/reprogram/issue commands to the CPU. Point and fire attitude jets to correct orientation. Etc.

It would be pretty brainless at this point, but having a catspaw to remote-control - even at several minutes delay - would give controllers a lot of extra options. The 'bot would nestle quietly in its box until needed, drawing power from the main spacecraft and being monitored with the rest of the systems.

It's not all swine and roses, of course. The bot would mean extra weight to loft. It might itself fail when finally needed. Worse, it might develop an annoying personality with lots of booping and beeping. I still believe this could be done with current tech, and might be worth it.

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Re: Time for an early version of R2D2?

If the bot were to fail, we could include a special bot that's designed to repair the defective bot so that it could repair the satellite!

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Joke

Re: Time for an early version of R2D2?

<quote>If the bot were to fail, we could include a special bot that's designed to repair the defective bot so that it could repair the satellite!</quote>

No, that is what ejection mechanisms are for. Then you report to manglement that the spacecraft is hopelessly fucked.

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Re: Time for an early version of R2D2?

Just remember to memory whipe the bot regularily!

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Re: Time for an early version of R2D2?

With PLCs, dual computers, software defined radios and all the other modern gubbins, they already have what you're describing. It's called "software".

Need someone to hit the reset button? The other computer can do that for you. Need to swap these ports around? We can reprogram them. Need to fire a certain thruster? Clickety clickety done. etc

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Re: Time for an early version of R2D2?

"One of the major obstacles with fixing these sorts of problems is that you have to use the broken device to fix the broken device."

The human condition in a nutshell.

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"If the bot were to fail, we could include a special bot..."

It's bots all the way down.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time for an early version of R2D2?

The Robot would have to be Linux based, because in a time honoured fashion, Linux has been supported crappy Windows desktop installations for 20 years in terms of Disk Imaging tools, why change a habit of a lifetime?

Forget that ridiculous notion of solely relying on Windows 10 to restore itself back to a previous version / upgrade properly and get that to happen 100% of the time. It always has been much better to just have a Linux based image of the underlying disk structure, (getting underneath Windows) that method, simply - just works, every time.

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Re: Time for an early version of R2D2?

R2D2?

Sounds more like the maintenance robots from "Silent Running". What were they called - Huey, Dewey and Louie (or something like)?

And bloody Bruce Dern mows one down with his space go-cart. Really sad, I almost cried when I first saw that scene. Well I was only 14 and my then girlfiend was blubbing while I tried to kiss her in the cinema back row

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time for an early version of R2D2?

>>> The Robot would have to be Linux based,

Because Linux is the only OS that rwpresents devices as raw files, right? -rolls eyes.

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Hurray!

This is most impressive.

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Anonymous Coward

First world problem

What NASA isn't telling us is that the mission was originally recorded in Dolby surround....

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Joke

Re: First world problem

"What NASA isn't telling us is that the mission was originally recorded in Dolby surround...."

Surely that would be NASA Stereo Solar Surround(tm)?

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Re: First world problem

Don't you mean 'Dobly'

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Impressive!

To quote a surprised Darth Vader, "Impressive!"

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"...their orbit drifted further away to the other side of the Sun..."

If they wait awhile, they should drift back again.

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Re: "...their orbit drifted further away to the other side of the Sun..."

Yes... and I thought "Having the Sun wedged in between made communication with Earth nearly impossible as the solar wavelengths make the environment too noisy to pick up signals from Earth" showed a real deep understanding of all the science stuff too. Maybe just a Rocket Wo/man?

(but we do like SPAAACE, so carry on)

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Re: "...their orbit drifted further away to the other side of the Sun..."

Or they could build and launch STEREO-C and get it out at 90deg from Earth/A&B and hop comms through it around the Solar interference.

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Anonymous Coward

Could it not be the windows 10 upgrade nag screens but they were swamped out of their own connection by all the microshaft cough telemetry that was being transmitted back to redmond leaving no room for their own telemetry....

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I am quite chuffed when I can RDP into and fix a machine in an Asian country that has really bad network speeds. These guys do similar with speed 100 times slower and distances thousands times greater on hardware that is 3 to 4 times older. They continually surprise and amaze me.

Wasn't the first Mars rover supposed to have a life of 3 months and 10 years later the little sucker is still sending back data despite several wheels no longer working. [tips hat]They are better techs than I am or could ever hope to be Gung din. [/tips hat]

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More info please!

I lot well explained about what went wrong but very little about how "NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN)." was used. I think it means that DSN managed to pick up the weak signals that tell them the current status. What will be really interesting to know is do they think they can send commands to bring it back more under control and how will they do that!

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