Windows booted from the ISS.

Most of you know that I am an advocate for FOSS  (free and open source software).  Not that I begrudge anyone from making money, because you can still make money from FOSS, just ask Google, Apple, Yahoo, Netflix, Red Hat, Intel….yada, yada, yada.  Even Microsoft has products that use FOSS and even has FOSS projects of their own.

It seems that NASA has decided to drop Windows from the laptops on the International Space Station (ISS) in favor of Linux.

Keith Chuvala, a United Space Alliance contractor, manager of the Space Operations Computing (SpOC) for NASA, and leader of the ISS’s Laptops and Network Integration Teams, recently explained that NASA had decided to move to Linux for the ISS’s PCs. “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.”

It appears that when you are in space, you might need to look at the source code to make changes during an event, just as Curiosity and its recent stray radiation problem.

Scientific Linux Logo.

ISS astronauts will be using computers running the well-tested and reliable Debian 6 version of Linux. Earlier, some of the on-board computers had been using Scientific Linux, a Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) clone.

I have been working on getting Scientific Linux (with some modifications) to run my observatory, mount and cameras.  I hope to have a presentation ready soon so that people with limited budgets can take astrophotos without having to invest thousands of dollars in software, like I have done over the years.

Linux has been used on the ISS ever since its launch and at NASA ground operations almost since the day it was created, it was not used much on PCs in space.


Linux is also running Robonaut (R2), the first humanoid robot in space. R2 is meant to carry out tasks too dangerous or tedious for astronauts.