A backup computer installed on the external side of the orbiting lab is not responding to commands at the International Space Station (ISS) and there are possibilities that its rectification would need the astronauts to take a spacewalk.

This computer malfunction could lead to a delay next week"s launch of a commercial supply ship for NASA.

NASA has indicated that the main computer, called an MDM or multiplexer-demultiplexer, is working fine, and the six-man crew is in no danger, but the functions that these computers have to carry out may be affected - like the control of a few robotic functions that would be needed for the upcoming supply run by SpaceX.

This is one of two U.S. companies that have been contracted by NASA to keep the space station well stocked and a backup computer would need to be operating for redundancy of those robotic systems.

Incidentally, SpaceX is supposed to launch the unmanned Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral carrying a load of nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies and science experiments and the mission has already been delayed by a month.

This is because of extra prep time that had been required by the California company apart from unrelated damage to an Air Force radar-tracking device that is necessary for rocket launches.

As per information from Mission Control there are two options - either repair the computer or replace it - and, a replacement would have to be accomplished by spacewalking astronauts.

The space station is currently home to two Americans, one Japanese and three Russians and NASA is paying Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — or SpaceX — and the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to undertake delivery missions to the ISS.

Of course, occasional supplies are also made by Russia, Japan and Europe.


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