ESA's Vega rocket crashes and burns after fourth-stage nozzle failure sinks two satellites

Second failure in last three missions doesn't inspire confidence


The European Space Agency (ESA) and Arianespace have commissioned an inquiry into the failure of a Vega rocket that crashed on Tuesday, destroying a pair of Earth monitoring satellites built by French and Spanish researchers.

The rocket blasted off from the Guiana Space Center on Tuesday at 0252 UTC. Eight minutes later, after the ignition of its fourth stage, a deviation of trajectory was identified and the mission was lost.

Initial diagnoses suggests the stage failed due to a suspected "problem related to the integration of the fourth-stage AVUM nozzle activation system."

Both satellites aboard the rocket were lost. One was named SEOSAT–Ingenio and was Spain’s first optical imaging satellite. The other was named Taranis and was a French mission to observe thunderstorms from above. The rocket and its cargo fell to Earth in a safe crash zone away from human habitation.

vega

Eight minutes from doom. Source: ESA. Click to enlarge

“My thoughts are with all teams ... for their hard work on the two lost satellites,” said ESA Director General Jan Wörner.

“I will personally make sure that we fully understand the root cause, but also that we bring Vega back to the robustness and reliability of service it has shown since its first launch in 2012.”

Arianespace, which builds and operates the Vega launcher, confirmed it has started telemetry data analysis to determine the cause of the disaster.

The crash is the second recent Vega rocket accident: in July 2019 another launch carrying a satellite for the United Arab Emirates malfunctioned over the Atlantic Ocean and fell into the water.

Arianespace temporarily paused its Vega launches after that incident but staged a successful launch in September 2020.

Now the rocket-maker is again pondering a failure, and perhaps also whether it needs to return to the drawing board. ®


Linus Torvalds issues early Linux Kernel update to fix swapfile SNAFU

‘Subtle and very nasty bug’ meant 5.12 rc1 could trash entire filesystems

Linux overlord Linus Torvalds has rushed out a new release candidate of Linux 5.12 after the first in the new series was found to include a ‘subtle and very nasty bug’ that was so serious he marked rc1 as unsuitable for use.

“We had a very innocuous code cleanup and simplification that raised no red flags at all, but had a subtle and very nasty bug in it: swap files stopped working right. And they stopped working in a particularly bad way: the offset of the start of the swap file was lost,” Torvalds wrote in a March 3rd post to the Linux Kernel Mailing List.

“Swapping still happened, but it happened to the wrong part of the filesystem, with the obvious catastrophic end results.”

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Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy a beer: Beware the downloaded patch applied in haste

Let us tell you a tale of the Mailman's Apprentice

Who, Me? The weekend is over and Monday is here. Celebrate your IT prowess with another there-but-for-the-grace confession from the Who, Me? archives.

Our tale, from a reader the Regomiser has elected to dub "Simon", takes us back to the early part of this century and to an anonymous antipodean institution of learning.

Simon was working at the local Student Union (or "guild" as the locals called it), which was having problems with uppity education staff censoring the emissions of students. Simon was therefore commissioned to set up a fully independent newsletter.

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Remember that day in March 2020 when you were asked to get the business working from home – tomorrow, if possible? Here's how that worked out

IT pros from orgs large and small tell The Reg the tech delivered, mostly, but couriers and home Wi-Fi suddenly became your problem

Covid Logfile Brianna Haley was given one day to be ready to roll out Zoom for 13,000 users at over 1,000 sites.

Haley* is a project analyst for a large healthcare provider that, as COVID-19 marched across the world in March 2020, realised imminent lockdowns meant it would soon be unable to consult with patients.

And no consultations meant no revenue.

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The torture garden of Microsoft Exchange: Grant us the serenity to accept what they cannot EOL

Time to fix those legacy evils, though.... right?

Column It is the monster which corrupts all it touches. It is an energy-sucking vampire that thrives on the pain it promotes. It cannot be killed, but grows afresh as each manifestation outdoes the last in awfulness and horror. It is Microsoft Exchange and its drooling minion, Outlook.

Let us start with the most numerous of its victims, the end users. Chances are, you are one. You may be numbed by lifelong exposure, your pain receptors and critical faculties burned out though years of corrosion. You might be like me, an habitual avoider whose work requirements periodically force its tentacles back in through the orifices.

I have recently started to use it through its web interface, where it doesn’t update the unread flags, hides attachments, multiplies browser instances, leaves temp files all over my download directory, tangles threads, botches searchers and so on.

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Delayed, overbudget and broken. Of course Microsoft's finest would be found in NASA's Orion

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream (as Windows crashes again)

BORK!BORK!BORK! Getting astronauts to the Moon or Mars is the least of NASA's problems. Persuading Microsoft Windows not to fall over along the way is apparently a far greater challenge.

Spotted by Register reader Scott during a visit to the otherwise excellent Space Center Houston, there is something all too real lurking within the mock-up of the Orion capsule in which NASA hopes to send its astronauts for jaunts beyond low Earth orbit.

Clutched in the hand of a mannequin posed in the capsule's hatch is a reminder of both how old space tech tends to be and a warning for space-farers intending to take Microsoft's finest out for a spin.

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Name True, iCloud access false: Exceptional problem locks online storage account, stumps Apple customer service

You're naming yourself wrong?

An iCloud customer says she spent more than six hours on the phone to Apple after being locked out of the service because her name is apparently incompatible with the application code.

"Actor, author, artist" Rachel True posted on Twitter about an error with the iCloud application, an unhandled exception with "Type error: cannot set value `true` to property `lastName`."

It seems that her name was interpreted as a Boolean value instead of a string, a common programming problem especially in dynamic languages which are more flexible about variable types.

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Intel CPU interconnects can be exploited by malware to leak encryption keys and other info, academic study finds

Side-channel ring race 'hard to mitigate with existing defenses'

Chip-busting boffins in America have devised yet another way to filch sensitive data by exploiting Intel's processor design choices.

Doctoral student Riccardo Paccagnella, master's student Licheng Luo, and assistant professor Christopher Fletcher, all from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, delved into the way CPU ring interconnects work, and found they can be abused for side-channel attacks. The upshot is that one application can infer another application's private memory and snoop on the user's key presses.

"It is the first attack to exploit contention on the cross-core interconnect of Intel CPUs," Paccagnella told The Register. "The attack does not rely on sharing memory, cache sets, core-private resources or any specific uncore structures. As a consequence, it is hard to mitigate with existing side channel defenses."

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NASA shows Mars that humans can drive a remote control space tank at .01 km/h

Perseverance takes first drive around landing spot named in honor of seminal sci-fi author Octavia E. Butler

NASA’s Perseverance rover trekked across Mars for the first time last Thursday, March 4, 2021.

The vehicle went four whole meters forward, turned 150 degrees to the left, then moved another two-and-a-half meters. The entire drive covered a whopping 6.5 m (21.3 feet) across Martian terrain. The journey took about 33 minutes.

The Register ran that through a calculator and deduces the nuclear powered laser-equipped space tank, aka Perseverance, sped along at the astounding velocity of .01km/h, quite a comedown from the 19,310 km/h at which it entered the red planet’s atmosphere.

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Google's ex-boss tells the US it's time to take the gloves off on autonomous weapons

Plus: AI Index 2021 report takeaways, Chocolate Factory banished from top ethics conference, and more

In brief US government should avoid hastily banning AI-powered autonomous weapons and instead step up its efforts in developing such systems to keep up with foreign enemies, according to the National Security Commission on AI.

The independent group headed by ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt and funded by the Department of Defense has published its final report advising the White House on how best to advance AI and machine learning to stay ahead of its competitors.

Stretching over 750 pages, the report covers a lot of areas, including retaining talent, the future of warfare, protecting IP, and US semiconductor supply chains.

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Keeping up the PECR: ICO fines two marketing text pests £330k for sending 2.6 million messages

Leads Work Ltd and Valca Vehicle and Life Cover Agency tried to exploit household finance fears in lockdown, says data watchdog

Two businesses that dispatched more than 2.6 million nuisance text messages seeking to exploit lower household incomes during Britain’s first lockdown are nursing a combined financial penalty of £330,000 from the UK’s data watchdog.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it had received 10,000 official moans against West Sussex-based Leads Work Ltd [PDF], which sent more than 2.6 million lead generation texts between 16 May and 26 June 2020.

The texts were sent under the brand of Avon - yes, the direct sales biz that flogs cosmetics and perfumes. Any leads generated would then passed to independent Avon sales reps.

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