Feeds

Mars probe crippled by buggy SSD successfully jury-rigged

Ingenious space BOFHs overcome memory fault

Boost IT visibility and business value

Exclusive A space probe in orbit above Mars, crippled by a fault in its solid-state memory, has been brought back on line and is now once again handling scientific data.

The Mars Express spacecraft, which has been orbiting the Red Planet since 2003, has been suffering problems since August in which it has repeatedly gone into "safe mode" due to read/write errors and communications problems in its Solid State Mass Memory (SSMM) system. Repeated safe-modes are bad news, as going into safe mode involves the craft needing to lock onto the Sun to ensure that its solar panels keep its batteries charged – and this means burning six months' normal consumption of manoeuvring fuel. Since August, Mars Express has gone into safe mode three times and could easily have done so more often. Prior to the SSMM problems, the most recent safe-mode event had been three years ago.

The latest update as of 31 October issued by the European Space Agency (ESA), operator of Mars Express, states that a work-around is "now being investigated", but persons familiar with the matter have informed The Register that in fact the workaround is in place and science operations with one instrument – the Sub-Surface Sounding Radar Altimeter (MARSIS) – have resumed. More instruments are expected to come back online in coming weeks.

In essence the fix involves repurposing a memory file located outside the buggy SSMM to store commands from controllers on Earth, which should prove more reliable than using either the normal SSMM file or its "B-side" backup, which has already been tried without success. The crafty fix seems to have done the business for now, successfully bringing back to life a multimillion-pound spacecraft in orbit about another planet currently well over a hundred million miles away.

Who said fixing IT problems is boring? ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Flamewars in SPAAACE: cooler fires hint at energy efficiency
Experiment aboard ISS shows we should all chill out for cleaner engines
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.