Computers in Space

Comments 1 to 22 of 22

Lord_A 21st April 2005, 12:33 Quote
Excellent article there GOO.

Thoroughly enjoyed reading it and LOL at your first 2 pictures ;)

I get a forbidden on though?
logan 21st April 2005, 13:06 Quote
Very interesting! ;)

Originally Posted by goo

...that some day in the not too distant future you’ll be able to have a quick game of Half-Life 3 with a decent frame rate whilst staying at an inflatable orbital ‘Budget Hotel’.

As if Half Life 3 will be out in the "not too distant future"!
GreatOldOne 21st April 2005, 13:25 Quote
Hmmm - not sure as to why the link isn't working to the V2 page - it's the right URL. It seems as if the whole site is down...
LAGMonkey 21st April 2005, 14:51 Quote
i just love the fact that i was once told that the shuttle employed "super computers" to get it into and back out of space. All i can say is that there "super special" and im talking VERY special lol :D
pranks7er 21st April 2005, 15:52 Quote
Suppose its obvious why they run such low spec computers, they cant just plug into the wall socket like to power an 3ghz beast a 386 gonna use LOT LESS ENERGY. Why waste the energy if you dont need the power
BjD 21st April 2005, 17:23 Quote
Great article, especially after just watching Apollo 13 :D

I remember reading a while ago an article about NASA buying old computers, medical equipment and the like, so they could stockpile the old processors. Didnt realise they still use core store memory either.
kye 21st April 2005, 18:14 Quote
That was a decent read :D Danke, thanks, kiitos, merci.
<A88> 21st April 2005, 22:21 Quote
Originally Posted by GreatOldOne
Hmmm - not sure as to why the link isn't working to the V2 page - it's the right URL. It seems as if the whole site is down...
Back up now it seems. Nice article! ;)

Lord_A 21st April 2005, 22:22 Quote
Originally Posted by alexwilks88
Back up now it seems. Nice article! ;)


Is indeed, thanks for the update ;)
Redwolf 22nd April 2005, 01:21 Quote
great article, there was a show on the discovery chanel about that. Rember that Seymour Cray didn't start using IC untill all ther other companies had perfected the technology. Why trade something that you know already for something new if you don't need to?.
Firehed 22nd April 2005, 02:26 Quote
You think they'd just strap the proc on the outside of the shuttle and the absolte-zero-ness of space would take care of the heat.

Interesting read anyways.
GreatOldOne 22nd April 2005, 09:34 Quote
Space - whilst cold - isn't absolute zero.

And it also depends on which part of the shuttle you measure the temp - on the sun side it could be a balmy 250 F (121 C), whilst on the farside of the ship it could be way down below -250 F (-156 C)

That's why astronauts have cooling suits under their spacesuits.
sedavew 23rd April 2005, 17:04 Quote
From the article: And all of this can be done with a tiny amount of computational power.
Or no power at all, in the case of the early days of rocketry – the V2 just relied on accelerometers to gauge if it had hit the correct speed for it’s sub – orbital lob toward London.

n 1: the procedure of calculating; determining something by mathematical or logical methods [syn: calculation, computing] 2: problem solving that involves numbers or quantities [syn: calculation, figuring, reckoning]
madler 24th April 2005, 05:28 Quote
Good article. Some minor comments:

Cassini wasn't the first to use solid-state memory for storage. Mars Pathfinder did, and was launched before Cassini. It's possible, and I'd think likely, that there were Earth orbiters that used only solid-state memory before MPF.

The 80C85 was used in the Sojourner rover, not the Mars Pathfinder lander that carried it. The MPF lander used the RAD6000, the same processor, at the same speed for that matter, that is being used today by the two Mars Exploration Rovers.

I have not heard of core memory being used in spacecraft designs for many years. I doubt that you can buy it anymore. Interestingly, the Mars Viking landers and some other spacecraft of that era used something even more obscure: plated-wire memory.

What we do to mitigate the radiation problem for memory is to use components that aren't exactly radiation hard, but rather radiation tolerant. The radiation doesn't kill the parts, but the parts make errors when they're hit. We then use error-correction to fix the random hits. On MER we use Xilinx reconfigurable FPGAs that are radiation tolerant. They're designed with self-checking, and when their configuration RAM is hit, they automatically reload the configuration from ROM.

As for cooling, that is quite difficult in a vacuum. The vacuum has no heat sink capability whatsoever, in the sense of convective or conductive cooling. All you can do for cooling is to radiate. So you need lots of copper or something to conduct heat from all of the electronics out to some radiators that see space. Both Mars Pathfinder and the MER rovers, while they were en route to Mars, used freon loops to carry heat from the electronics buried inside the capsule that would protect when it entered the Martian atmosphere.

Mark Adler
Pezboy 24th April 2005, 09:48 Quote
It’s proven technology that’s shown itself to be resilient to the rigours of spaceflight.

But can it create something almost, but not entirely unlike, tea?
publiusr 29th April 2005, 22:47 Quote
I don't know about tea--but the Russians were masters of rugged tech.

A lot of this actually has to do with launch vehicle development.

Early on warheads--esp. Soviet ones--were huge. Stalin wanted a nuke NOW. Korolov--a Chief Designer, exploited this and developed the R-7 (Sputnik/Soyuz) launch vehicle--that today can take seven tons to low-earth orbit. The russians made rockets bigger than what was needed at the time--for warheads began to shrink.

However, their greater thrust proved valuable in the space race. Our warheads shrank more quickly, and we abandoned our earlier, smaller liquid-fueled launch vehicles to sats and probe launches.

The micro-sizing of electronics became a crutch.

The Soviet concept was not to overshrink the payload--but make a bigger rocket--thus the Saturn IB-class UR-500 Proton which places 20 ton Almaz/Salyut/Mir stations in orbit--and today is their workhorse comsat launcher thanks to Lockheed-Martin and ILS.

The Russians still produce the R-7 launched Vostok soacecraft and used it as a big spysat/ space materials research bus. Their early sats could use bulky off-the-shelf electronics due to the enormous throw-weight of their launch vehicles. Their craft were climate controlled cannonballs with internal atmosphere, AC and plenty of shielding.

Our missiles were smaller, thus we used micro-electronics as a crutch. That worked well with the early circuits--as simple and hardy as they were--for they were still faster than the huge computers we had on the ground.

Our rockets--thus our sats-were smaller--and exposed to vacuum

But as more and more people--not just pointy-heads and white coats got computers, the time it took to space rate (rad-harden, vacuum-proof, heat-resistant) space tech kept lagging.--and now we are in a fix.

We got away with stretching our puny missiles to the point of absurdity, to the point that the Titan II, weaker than the SS-9, was stretched into the Titan IV abomination of Proton class--but costing a billion a shot with the cost of the MILSTAR included.

Now as more folks on the ground have newer computers, the only thing for it is to put more chips, more solar panels on sats.

Thus the micro-chip revolution has not made sats smaller--but made them larger.

Outside of the Saturns, the Delta IV 'heavy' is the only all-liquid fueled launcher we have had in the R-7--UR-500 Proton range---EVER!

Now it takes big Russian/Euro launchers--made large to start with--to lift our big comsats. The European Ariane 5 is what launched our most recent ANIK-2 comsat. By the time our EELV's (Atlas V and Delta IV) came out--the DOT.COM bubble burst--Iridium collapsed, and the launch vehicle market fell out--due in part to the 20-ton-to-LEO glut of launch vehicles.

India is working on a 200 ton Solid for their GSLV first stage--while people here praise Rutan for that ME-163 Komet toy he drops from a spindly learjet contraption.

What some of you may not know is that Boeing's largest successful launcher, is the Zenit Sea Launch vehicle--that started life as a strap-on booster for the Russian Space Shuttle/HLLV booster combo--Energiya:

It's four-nozzle engine, the RD-170, has more thrust than the single chamber Saturn-V F-1 engine. The half-strength, two-nozzle RD-180 is being used by Lockheed-Martin's Atlas V.

So both Primes are using Soviet Space Shuttle Booster engines, because the older Delta's and Atlas are too small. We have one or two more Titan IVs and that's it.


It's going to come to a point where we will wind up with huge com-stations--like what Arthur C. Clarke wanted up there to start with.

But no! The Air Farce didn't want big launchers--and since our Saturn IB was an ARMY rocket--they canned it, and focused on runt missiles like Minuteman.

And now some want tiny cube-sats and nano-sats to put yet more spacejunk up there. Ironically, the Soviets had a better plan--use Energiya to put big com-stations up there:

I think we need to can EELV and do like the Soviets did, and build larger Heavy Lift Launch Vehicles (HLLVs) for future space exploration--like this one:

Remeber--Europa has no atmosphere--so the aerobrake/chute/airbag won't work. We have used Delta II as a crutch too long. Let's make bigger rockets for orbiting solar powerstations--and give our children the future we thought we would have.

The first decade of the 21'st Century is half-done.

Does this look like the 21st Century we thought we'd have?

In 1999 we saw no Barbra Bain or Martin Landau on the moon. In 2001--we saw no ring-shaped space stations--just 9/11. Our future has been stolen from us, America--and I for one want it back.

Sadly--I hold computer people partly to blame for all this.

So help me--if I could go back in time and break the fingers of whoever invented the microchips--I'd do it.

We might not have fancy Computer -Gen effects for movies about Mars.

We'd BE on Mars. AD ASTRA!

Nice websites: (click on the Real Space Thread)
TekMonkey 30th April 2005, 04:18 Quote
In similar news, the Opportunity Mars Rover is stuck in a sand dune! :D
publiusr 11th May 2005, 20:10 Quote
Here is a nice link:
Xiachunyi 25th August 2005, 23:42 Quote
There is also the fact that since we are squeezing more things into a processor, more things are likely to go wrong.

Things such as timing, tolerance levels, and so on are subjected to exceedingly large amounts of environmental variables that would have been taken into granted as being in an acceptable level or never would occur.

If your computer crashes, do you lose your life? Not usually. But if somehow a computer crashed during something sensitive, such as computer-monitored life support, then that would be a cause of great of alarm.

Computers, being as simple as allowed, would also be easier to repair. Would one rather take upon the task of trouble-shooting a large black SMT IC or a series of through the hole components that could be traced easily?
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