International Space Station to boldly go with Linux over Windows
Computers aboard the International Space Station are to be switched from Windows XP to the Linux operating system in an attempt to improve stability and reliability.
Dozens of laptops on the ISS's 'opsLAN' network - which provides the ship's crew with vital capabilities for day-to-day operations, from telling the astronauts where they are to interfacing with onboard cameras - will be switched, removing Windows entirely from the ISS.
“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," said Keith Chuvala of the United Space Alliance, which runs opsLAN for NASA.
Astronauts using the system were trained on specific courses tailored by the non-profit Linux Foundation.
Linux is already used to run various systems aboard the ISS, including the world's first 'Robonaut', sent to the Space Station in 2011. 'R2' can be manipulated by astronauts as well as ground controllers and is designed to carry out tasks "too dangerous or mundane" for astronauts in microgravity, according to the Linux Foundation.
Tailored versions of Linux are widely used in scientific projects, including CERN’s Large Hadron Collider.
“Linux Foundation had it all, and provided the trainer on-site at our headquarters, which was a huge plus,” said Chuvala. “On top of that, the cost was very good, so it was overall a great value.”
The ISS computers were previously infected by a virus while running Windows. In 2008 the W32.Gammima.AG worm was found aboard, having reportedly been carried on a Russian astronaut's laptop. The Windows-based worm was classed as low risk by anti-virus software manufacturer Symantec.
Reports from Russian officials today reveal that the ISS is suffering a "very serious" ammonia leak that may require astronauts to perform an emergency spacewalk.
Source: The Telegraph