Odyssey Flight Team to Check Status of Backup System

Mar 04, 2009
Artist concept of Odyssey. Image credit: NASA/JPL

(PhysOrg.com) -- The team operating NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter plans a procedure next week to address a long-known, potential vulnerability of accumulated memory corruption.

The procedure requires rebooting the spacecraft's computer. This is not a risk-free event, but the Odyssey team and NASA have carefully weighed the risks of performing a cold reboot compared with the risk of doing nothing, and determined that the proper course of action is to proceed with the reboot.

The chief concern about the potential memory vulnerability stems from the length of time that the spacecraft has been exposed to the accumulated effects of the space radiation environment since the last reboot, which occurred on Oct. 31, 2003.

As an additional benefit, the cold-reboot procedure will demonstrate whether Odyssey's onboard backup systems will be available should they ever be required.

"We have lost no functionality, but there would be advantages to knowing whether the B side is available," said Odyssey Mission Manager Gaylon McSmith of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We have developed a careful plan for attempting to determine that."

In all the years since its April 7, 2001, launch, Odyssey has not needed to use its set of spare components. The spares are called the spacecraft's "B side," which includes an identical set of a computer processor, navigation sensors, relay radio and other subsystems. To use any of them, Odyssey would have to shift to all of them at once from its primary set of components, called the "A side."

On March 21, 2007, the B-side spare of an electronic component for managing the distribution of power, called the high-efficiency power supply, became inoperable. If it is permanently disabled, then none of the B side is available for use. Engineers have investigated the inoperability of the B-side high-efficiency power supply. They concluded that the component can probably be made to work properly again by rebooting the orbiter's computer, although the memory-vulnerability issue that is the current concern is not directly related to the March 2007 event that affected the power supply.

Odyssey is in the third two-year extension of its mission at Mars. Some A-side components, such as the UHF radio used for communications with spacecraft on the surface of Mars, have worked as long as they were designed to last.

In addition to its own major scientific discoveries and continuing studies of the planet, the Odyssey mission has played important roles in supporting the missions of the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity and the Phoenix Mars Lander.

Provided by NASA

Explore further: SpaceX breaks ground on Texas rocket launch site

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Opportunity rover rolling again after fifth Mars winter

May 09, 2012

(Phys.org) -- With its daily supply of solar energy increasing, NASA's durable Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has driven off the sunward-tilted outcrop, called Greeley Haven, where it worked during its ...

Mars rover Spirit misses communication session

Apr 01, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit skipped a planned communication session on March 30 and, as anticipated from recent power-supply projections, has probably entered a low-power hibernation ...

NASA Phoenix Mission Ready For Mars Landing

May 13, 2008

NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander is preparing to end its long journey and begin a three-month mission to taste and sniff fistfuls of Martian soil and buried ice. The lander is scheduled to touch down on the Red ...

Mars Orbiter to Launch August 10

Aug 07, 2005

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft now sits atop its Atlas V rocket ready for launch. The upcoming flight of the powerful booster is the first launch of an Atlas V for NASA.

Recommended for you

Getting to the root of the problem in space

2 hours ago

When we go to Mars, will astronauts be able to grow enough food there to maintain a healthy diet? Will they be able to produce food in NASA's Orion spacecraft on the year-long trip to Mars? How about growing ...

The difference between CMEs and solar flares

4 hours ago

This is a question we are often asked: what is the difference between a coronal mass ejection (CME) and a solar flare? We discussed it in a recent astrophoto post, but today NASA put out a video with amazing graphics that explain ...

Scientific instruments of Rosetta's Philae lander

4 hours ago

When traveling to far off lands, one packs carefully. What you carry must be comprehensive but not so much that it is a burden. And once you arrive, you must be prepared to do something extraordinary to make ...

How ancient impacts made mining practical

6 hours ago

About 1.85 billion years ago, in what would come to be known as Sudbury Canada, a 10 kilometer wide asteroid struck with such energy that it created an impact crater 250 kilometers wide. Today the chief industry of Sudbury ...

User comments : 0