NASA regains contact with space station after 3-hour outage

Software upgrade knocked out NASA's communications Tuesday

Communication with the astronauts on board the International Space Station were restored after problems with a software upgrade knocked out contact for several hours Tuesday.

NASA reported that communications between the ground crew in Houston and the orbiting station were down for nearly three hours starting at 9:45 a.m. Tuesday.

The problem occurred while flight controllers were updating the station's command and control software and were transitioning from the main computer to a backup system to complete the software load.

When the orbiter flew over Russian ground stations, NASA was able to use those stations to connect with the crew and tell them to connect another computer to begin to restore communications.

Kevin Ford, a NASA astronaut and space station commander, reported that the station is in good shape and all of the astronauts onboard are fine.

Two American astronauts, three Russians and a Canadian are onboard the space station, which flies about 250 miles above the Earth.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted about the experience.

He started Tuesday morning by tweeting, "Good Morning, Earth! Today we transition the Space Station's main computers to a new software load. Nothing could possibly go wrong."

He spoke too soon.

Hadfield later tweeted, "As I transition the Space Station computers, I notice our Houston CAPCOM's name is ... Hal ! The irony, as life imitates art." Then he wrote, "The computers gave us problems today, comms going in and out, but our superb Mission Control team has it all fixed, back, with an upgrade."

The Canadian Space Agency also got in on the Twitter action, noting, "Open the pod bay door Hal!" @Cmdr_Hadfield at work today despite the outage w/the ground. Comms were restored @ 12:34pm."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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