International Space Station Starts Using Linux, Not Windows

Good bye Windows XP and hello Linux says the International Space Station as the United Space Alliance, who manage the computers on the ISS state that “We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable.”

There are dozens of laptops used on the ISS, all of which will now be running a Debian 6 distro of Linux. This is more suitable over Windows XP given that various other systems on the ISS already run a variety of Linux formats such as RedHat. Although if they’ve still be running Windows XP, I’d say they were likely overdue an update anyway.

XP was fantastic, I know that, but it is 11 years old now and as we reported yesterday, even AMD are starting to drop support for the OS with the launch of Kabini CPUs. Linux is of course, for the most part, free! It’s easier to update and it’s completely open source, which makes it extremely flexible in terms of usage, performance and even power management, something that no doubt tipped it in NASA’s favour.

Keith Chuvala of the United Space Alliance says they “want an operating system that would give us in-house control. So if we needed to patch, adjust or adapt, we could.”

This is no easy transition of course since all laptop will have custom software on their for operating systems and scientific experiments, all of this will have had to have been rewritten in Linux and all astronauts and cosmonauts will now be trained (if they haven’t already) by the Linux Foundation.

It’s amazing NASA has stuck it out this long with Windows XP, although the old motto of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” likely applied for a long time. CERN, NASA and SpaceX ground station have been using Linux for a long time, infact most scientific institutions have.

Either way, this is another big step for Linux and the OS just keeps gaining traction and exposure year on year, but the big question is, have you ever tried Linux?