#1411: Shadoware

Spacecraft may someday travel so far from Earth that telemetry and software upgrades direct from the home planet become impractical.

Astronauts may want to effect improvements or the software may be capable of self-modification. Under those circumstances, carrying one copy of all the operating software on board will be a very risky business.

Today’s invention is a remote backup mechanism for vehicles traveling in deep space. Before making any changes to the operating programs, these would be copied onto a number of hard disks on board a satellite vehicle (together with any valuable data gathered as part of the mission). This would contain shielding to minimise the effects of cosmic rays.

The backup vehicle would be launched on a parallel trajectory and kept flying at a safe distance from the mother ship until any upgrade was verified and the two craft could rendez-vous again. In the event of an accident on the main craft, eg fire or memory corruption, the satellite vehicle would be able to dock automatically and attempt to restore the systems to their earlier condition.

One Comment:

  1. It would also be interesting for craft in a high, long-range eccentric orbit to store backup copies on a vehicle in a lower orbit so that transmission of code and data could happen periodically via telemetry when they were within range of each other.

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