Feeds

Mars probe crippled by buggy SSD successfully jury-rigged

Ingenious space BOFHs overcome memory fault

Protecting against web application threats using SSL

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? ®

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
Bacon-related medical breakthrough wins Ig Nobel prize
Is there ANYTHING cured pork can't do?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.