Mission Control Loses Contact with International Space Station

by Nancy Atkinson on February 19, 2013

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A view of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

A view of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

Today at about 9:45 a.m. EST (15:45 UTC) the International Space Station experienced a loss of communication with the Mission Control in Houston, and at this writing, communication has yet to be re-established. When communication was lost, flight controllers in Houston were updating the software onboard the station’s flight computers, and one of the station’s data relay systems malfunctioned. The primary computer that controls critical station functions defaulted to a backup computer, but was not allowing the station to communicate with NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites, NASA said.

Update: according to the Johnson Space Center Twitter feed, communications have been restored with the space station effective 11:34 am central time (17:34 UTC).

Flight controllers were able to communicate with the crew as the space station flew over Russian ground stations before 11:00 a.m. EST and instructed the crew to connect a backup computer to begin the process of restoring communications. Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford reported that the station’s status was fine and that the crew was doing well.

“Hey, just FYI, the station is still flying straight, everybody is in good shape, or course, and nothing unexpected except lots of caution and warning [alarms],” Ford said. “All the systems look like they are doing just fine.” Listen to the recording of his call here.

The loss occurred just prior to NASA TV’s regular broadcast of space station activities, and commentator Brandi Dean said, “We are able to see some data on the ground to let us know that everything is still good on the station and everything is going well with the procedures to re-establish communications with the ground.”

Dean said communication is expected to re-established within an hour, but we’ll provide updates if more problems persist.

In an uncanny coincidence (or prescience), Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield Tweeted this morning, “Good Morning, Earth! Today we transition the Space Station’s main computers to a new software load. Nothing could possibly go wrong.”

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Paul Logan February 19, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Have you tried turning it off and then on again ?

Tony Scharf February 19, 2013 at 4:59 PM

REBOOT!!!

Aqua4U February 19, 2013 at 5:42 PM

A WARY SCAWEY moment? Am glad it’s just a computer glitch… sheesh…

Last week there were several bright sightings of the ISS for the left coast (USA). I regularly look up the timing at spaceweather.com’s link (http://spaceweather.com/flybys/) and went out to taka lil ol look see and saw that it was still pretty light outside, but hung in there for several minutes looking because I’ve noticed that the posted time is usually ‘off’ by a few minutes sometimes… Nada… must’ve been too bright out yet? So, my overly active imagination went into high gear… What could have happened? etc….

Gozlemci February 19, 2013 at 6:01 PM

It is good to hear that the Station and crew are safe…

Beau February 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM

It was aliens! ;)

Dirk Shupe February 19, 2013 at 8:27 PM

Ground control to Major Tom…. Tom, are you there? Tom? Tom? Tom?

Ettalb February 19, 2013 at 9:11 PM

Thank you for calling Microsoft support, how may i help you?

Tony Power February 20, 2013 at 1:21 AM

I hope they have plenty of spare undies in mission control.

Demos Sense February 20, 2013 at 8:38 AM

meteors?

Demos Sense February 20, 2013 at 8:38 AM

ctrl-alt-del ?

Immanuel Kannan February 20, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Send Isaac Clarke!

Tim Amato February 20, 2013 at 4:21 PM

They should use some cell phone technology. We need back up computers to comunicate?

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