redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
Laptop computers essential to the day-to-day operations of the International Space Station (ISS) crew will be switching operating systems from Windows XP to Linux, according to published reports.
The laptops, which are on the space station´s “opsLAN” network, are used by astronauts to interface with onboard cameras and complete several other routine tasks, Joel Gunter of The Telegraph explained on Friday.
While Linux had already been used to run several systems on board the ISS, this means it will now be the exclusive OS used onboard the orbiting laboratory, he added.
“We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable — one that would give us in-house control. So if we needed to patch, adjust or adapt, we could,” Keith Chuvala of the United Space Alliance, the organization that operates opsLAN for NASA, told Gunter.
The Linux Foundation, a non-profit organization, created special courses to help train space station crewmembers using the system. According to Chuvala, the group “provided the trainer on-site at our headquarters, which was a huge plus“¦ [and] on top of that, the cost was very good, so it was overall a great value.”
Linux was used to run the “Robonaut,” which was transported to the space station two years ago and can be used by astronauts and ground controllers to carry out tasks considered too dangerous for humans to complete in microgravity. In addition, tailored versions of the OS are often used in other scientific projects, including the Large Hadron Collider — CERN´s massive, high-energy particle accelerator — Gunter said.
Dropping Windows in favor of the Unix-like, open-source operating system is “probably a good idea,” according to Jamie Condliffe of Gizmodo.
“Back in 2008, a Russian cosmonaut managed to take a laptop to the ISS that spread the W32.Gammima.AG worm to all the other laptops aboard the station. Using Linux should make that impossible,” Condliffe said. “The only hitch might be switching all the current, Windows-based software — for everything from viewing stock inventory to carrying out experiments — to Linux. We just hope they don’t use WINE.”