International Space station computer outage demands spacewalk

Colorado astronaut Steve Swanson on board ISS

NASA has ordered spacewalking repairs for a serious computer outage at the International Space Station with a Colorado astronaut on board.
NASA said Friday night that a backup computer on the outside of the orbiting lab is not responding to commands.

The main computer, called an MDM or multiplexer-demultiplexer, is working fine, and the six-man crew is in no danger, officials said. But these computers control some robotic functions that would be needed for the upcoming supply run by SpaceX, one of two U.S. companies contracted by NASA to keep the space station well stocked. A backup computer would need to be operating for redundancy of those robotic systems.

SpaceX is supposed to launch the unmanned Dragon capsule on Monday from Cape Canaveral. It contains nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies and science experiments.

The mission is already a month late because of extra prep time needed by the California company and unrelated damage to an Air Force radar-tracking device needed for rocket launches.

Late Friday, Mission Control was trying to determine whether the computer can be repaired or must be replaced. A replacement would have to be accomplished by spacewalking astronauts.

NASA is still aiming for a Monday launch by SpaceX. But that could change, depending on the status of the bad computer.

Astronauts use the space station's big robot arm to grab onto the Dragon capsule and attach it to the outpost.

The space station is currently home to two Americans, one Japanese and three Russians.

One of the Americans in Steve Swanson, a graduate of Steamboat Springs High School. Although Swanson was born in Syracuse, New York, he considers Steamboat Springs to be his hometown.

Swanson also graduated from the University of Colorado with a bachelor of science in engineering physics. From there, he completed a master of applied science in computer systems at Florida Atlantic University and then a doctorate in computer science from Texas A&M.

He worked as software engineer before joining the astronaut corps.

NASA is paying Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - or SpaceX - and the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to make space station deliveries. Russia, Japan and Europe also conduct occasional supply runs.

-- Additional reporting by Marc Stewart, 7NEWS.


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