back to article Turning it off and on again IN SPAAACE! ISS animal-tracker kit needs oldest trick in the book

Icarus – the ambitious project to track hundreds of thousands of animals from space – has hit an unexpected delay after a specialised computer installed on board the International Space Station (ISS) refused to work as intended. In order to fix the system, which was only switched on last week, astronauts will have to apply the …

  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    Not just for space

    slightly more complicated in space than it is in a corporate server room: before they can have a go at it, detailed procedures will have to be drawn up, and busy schedules will have to be cleared.

    Some ISPs and banking businesses could do with applying that level of diligence to their corporate server room updates as well...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not just for space

      Only some ?

    2. JCitizen
      Trollface

      Re: Not just for space

      Why don't they give every animal a cell phone and Facebook account - It would probably be cheaper too - even if you had to put up cell towers on the savannas - then they'd know every thing about them you could possibly know - probably even where they took a dump! HA!

      .

  2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Unfortunate name choice

    Icarus isn't a name usually associated with success.

    1. Annihilator

      Re: Unfortunate name choice

      To readers in the UK, the pioneering work of Argos seems odd too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unfortunate name choice

        "Argos is certainly a great system: we have used it a lot from the beginning, and we are still using it. Yes, it is old, and they have to be backward-compatible, in many cases, and they have some restrictions, and we have a different set of requirements"

        And still available click'n'collect from the Swiss Cottage and Guildford stores... order by 4pm and get a free £50 Argos voucher

        (although you will have to spend 2 days downloading hundreds of updates because it's new old stock)

      2. Marshalltown

        Re: Unfortunate name choice

        Ah, but Argos did not fall out of the sky in flames.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunate name choice

      It's hard to think of a less appropriate name taken from Greek mythology for something that is going up into space.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Unfortunate name choice

        But its really not getting that close to the sun....

        (although problems with overheating do seem entirely appropriate. Maybe icarus (the boy) should have installed some fans in his wings, for cooling purposes..)

      2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: Unfortunate name choice

        It's hard to think of a less appropriate name taken from Greek mythology for something that is going up into space.

        Phaethon?

      3. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: Unfortunate name choice

        Icarus is the poster child for not reading the user manual. I expect astronauts to be a little better trained.

  3. Glen 1 Bronze badge

    "Refused to work as intended"

    Temporary Inability To Spin Undulating Propellers?

  4. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Maybe next time they need to add a remote control feature (like the iLO feature on HP servers)...

    Not sure if that will be feasible. It do sound like a great idea, but there may be drawbacks.

  5. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
    Happy

    It's all a lie!

    This is nothing to do with some spurious "server issues"! It's that the animals are threatening to take out a privacy lawsuit, as we haven't gained opt-in consent. Galactic Data Protection Regulations are very strict, and both the mice and the dolphins have very good lawyers.

    On a similar note, I turned my telly on last week - and there was some program on about vets who do major surgery. So there was a dog, lying on an operating table, with all the usual paraphenalia of surgery around - and the funniest thing was that the TV company had pixelated the dog's face! So I'm presuming it refused to sign the consent form...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's all a lie!

      Ruff.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's all a lie!

      TV company had pixelated the dog's face

      That was to stop you seeing the Borg implants. Or the frikkin' laser.

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    They managed all that in 5 grams ?

    "The tiny gizmos are powered by the Sun and equipped with GPS, accelerometers, temperature, pressure and humidity sensors"

    And they made thousands of them, which has to mean that they are cheap to make. So, when are we getting temperature, pressure and humidity sensors in our smartphones ?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: They managed all that in 5 grams ?

      We already have them, but the data is only for use by Apple/Google/Facebook/the Lizard People/Delete as applicable.

      Oops, I've said too much...

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: They managed all that in 5 grams ?

      So, when are we getting temperature, pressure and humidity sensors in our smartphones

      Those features will be in the human tracking devices.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: They managed all that in 5 grams ?

        Many phones, mostly the expensive ones, have barometers in them. They are used to track things like whether the user has climbed stairs. Otherwise, I don't think they're used all that much. At one point, a company manufactured temperature and humidity sensors and wrote the code to allow Android to use them, but a cursory check of this phone database shows that only nine Samsung phones included them, and those were from a while ago. I guess they weren't very popular.

      2. Spherical Cow Bronze badge

        Re: They managed all that in 5 grams ?

        Yesterday I accidentally splashed my phone with water and it gave me a system warning "Moisture detected in USB/charging port". Sure enough, it looked wet in there so I dried it with tissue and the warning went away. Possibly just measuring electrical resistance changes, but nevertheless I think that qualifies as a crude humidity sensor.

        p.s. Yes my phone also has proper temperature and pressure sensors.

      3. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: They managed all that in 5 grams ?

        "Those features will be in the human tracking devices."

        Or 'smartphones' as they are known...

    3. ArgosSatelliteSystem

      Re: They managed all that in 5 grams ?

      In a market where only a few tags are manufactured at a time, it's actually quite expensive. Satellite tags used to track wildlife movement range in the $1,000-5,000 range (a bit more than a smartphone, in some cases, but significantly more complex - think housing, pressure requirements, etc).

      Also, you have to keep in mind that they are NOT manufacturing thousands of tags at a time. Every animal is unique. For example, there are seven species of sea turtles, so you might argue that there should be seven different tags for sea turtles. Heck, if you didn't know better you might even say one is enough. In fact, there are more than seven designs...significantly more.

      Your cell phone definitely has a temperature sensor, but whether or not it has a pressure sensor or humidity sensor - I don't know. Pressure sensors are used to tell elevation (birds) or depth (fish/marine). I don't know how applicable that would be in cell phone usage.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Sureo

    I hope...

    ... the animals appreciate what we are doing for/to them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I hope...

      Do they get to look at the data? Like on migration?

      "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Almost ready

    Once the satellites are fully operational we will begin the laser assignation of all who I think will oppose me!

    As if we were really going to track animals, stupid fools.

    Project Insight lives on! there is nothing the Avengers can do this time.

    Hail Hydra!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Almost ready

      'assignation' - I do not think it means what you think it means. And you are making the sheep nervous.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: Almost ready

        "To save energy, they will stay in sleep mode most of the time"

        I initially read that as sheep mode.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: Almost ready

          Ewe don't need expensive electronic devices to track sheep. too memory intensive, the satellites run out of ram. You simply use photo-reconnaissance, paint stipey paterns on the sheep's backs and it can all be done with baaaa codes.

          I'd better flock off now. It's pub o'clock and I've just been given a gallon of Somerset farm scrumpy for my birthday.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Almost ready

    Once the satellites are fully operational we will begin the laser assignation of all who Zola's algorithm thinks will oppose me!

    As if we were really going to track animals, stupid fools.

    Project Insight lives on! There is nothing the Avengers can do this time.

    Hail Hydra!

    1. donk1

      Re: Almost ready

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL2gxb-TcLM

      Zoltan!

      Bubblewrap jumpsuits!

  11. eraiser
    Coat

    I must be tired today.

    After reading 'project to track hundreds of thousands of animals from space' I was left wondering where I'd been since we discovered the arrival of all these space creatures...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How did they not spot the issue with current draw of fans on power up?!

    Even a basic oscilloscope and current meter would have shown spikes on initial power up.

    It's a well known issue in data center racks where the power distribution units can trip due to initial current load on powering on multiple servers all at the same time, even when the current rating on the the PDU is well within the limits during ongoing server usage. The PDUs and fans in the servers are the usual culprits for this spike in demand on power up.

  13. nojobhopes

    200kg is a lot of kit to take to space. Are we sure it is only tracking? And apparently "The OBC-I [On-Board Computer] is installed inside the Service Module behind a ceiling panel" [https://directory.eoportal.org/web/eoportal/satellite-missions/i/iss-icarus]. Is someone trying to hide it from the Russians?

  14. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Icarus is in a hurry...and is competing against

    Why are they in a hurry to and why is it a competition? Are all the "competing" projects tagging the exact same animals or something?

    Or is this just an academic race to publish?

    1. ArgosSatelliteSystem

      Re: Icarus is in a hurry...and is competing against

      The ICARUS system not only competes directly with the Argos system, but it also competes with Iridium, Globalstar, GSM as well as archival tags (ie: you have to physically get them back to see/recover the migratory track).

      To answer your second question - There is nothing that you can tag with ICARUS that you cannot tag with an existing system.

      It was an interesting scientific project/experiment, but I don't really see the viability in it long-term. There are already a number of systems that outperform whatever ICARUS claims it can do, and there are few transmitters out there collecting data (relative to other markets). Remember, there are only 8000 animals tracked at any given time on the Argos system which is the most well-known and used satellite system available for tracking wildlife. In addition, ICARUS will only be used on avian species for now, so the actual number of birds being tracked by satellite is quite a bit less than 8,000.

      Perhaps not the best way to spend millions and millions of dollars...

  15. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Fans?

    Not sure when I last bought any kit with a fan in. I thought everything these days was low-power chips, SSD etc. They must be working on something seriously big - tracking 7.7 billion humans?

    1. Robert Moore
      Flame

      Re: Fans?

      I would think passive thermal control is much harder in space, where hot air does not rise.

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Fans?

        I would think passive thermal control is much harder in space, where hot air does not rise.

        What happens to air biscuits and barking spiders in zero gravity?

  16. HildyJ
    FAIL

    In A Nutshell

    "the cooling fans the machine was equipped with consumed too much power when spinning up at the same time"

    So, basically, you're telling me it blows.

  17. Unbelievable!

    SPAAACE!

    SPAAACE! < Where have you been? missed you

  18. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Which species?

    It's all very well putting a 5g tracker on an elephant, and swallows (African or European?), though only about 20g, are known for carrying heavy loads in certain circumstances, but even a large monarch butterfly is only 0.75g and can migrate thousands of km.

    1. ArgosSatelliteSystem

      Re: Which species?

      Getting permits for tracking animals is not a guarantee. You, as the researcher, must demonstrate that whatever you are going to attach to the animal does not change their natural behavior. Consequently, it has been determined that animals should not carry payloads in excess of 2-3% of their body mass. So...the butterflies and bees of the world are safe regardless what the dreams of engineers are (at least for now).

  19. davenewman

    Bad noisy fans

    According to the astronaut Michael Foale, at a talk in Reading yesterday, the Russians used cheap noisy fans in their bit of the space station. The Americans used quiet expensive fans.

    It looks like the animal tracking kit used cheap Russian fans that weren't only noisy but keep sticking.

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Bad noisy fans

      Noisy fans have one advantage - if it suddenly go quiet, then you know you've got a problem.

      With quiet fans you'll hardly notice anything wrong should it go off...

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