NASA Loses Contact With International Space Station

A routine software upgrade on the International Space Station went awry today:

(Feb. 19) due to equipment failure, leaving the orbiting laboratory dependent on Russian ground stations for communications with Earth, space agency officials say.

The communications loss occurred at 9:45 a.m. EST (1445 GMT) as flight controllers at NASA’s Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston were sending a software update to the space station. All six space station astronauts are in good health, and NASA is attempting to reestablish a connection with the station, NASA officials said. The space station is currently home to three Russians, two Americans and a Canadian astronaut.

As far as NASA officials can tell, the space station’s loss of communications was unrelated to the software update, Kelly Humphries, a public affairs specialist at NASA told It was a coincidence that the space agency lost contact with the station as the computers were being updated.

main data relay system malfunctioned, and the computer that controls the station’s critical functions switched to a backup, NASA officials said in a statement. However, the station was still was unable to communicate with the Tracking and Data Relay satellite network that serves as the outpost’s link to NASA’s Mission Control center on the ground.

“Mission Control Houston was able to communicate with the crew as the space station flew over Russian ground stations before 11:00 a.m. EST and instructed the crew to connect a backup computer to begin the process of restoring communications,” NASA officials explained.

When mission control made contact with the International Space Station via Russian ground stations earlier today, Expedition 34 commander Kevin Ford reported on the health and status of the space station and its residents.

“Hey, just FYI, the station’s still fine and straight, everybody is in good shape of course,” said Ford in audio released by NASA. “And nothing unexpected other than lots of caution warning tones, and of course we have no system in sight. We’ll get that back to you as soon as we can.

Hopefully all will be resolved soon.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. John Peabody says:

    Dnenpatrovsk, we have a problem…

  2. Argon says:

    Eh, they’ve got a ham radio on board too. So, direct links to NASA ground control may be out but they can still communicate outside of Russian ground station range.

  3. B. minich says:

    This is how 10% of scary post-apocopalyptic sci-fi movies start.

  4. rudderpedals says:

    Ground control to Major Tom

  5. Argon says:

    Odd that we just heard about a cruise ship where people in that metal can were really put off by having to poop in bags and yet we’ve got people who’ve spent their whole lives training, sacrificing and earning advanced degrees so that they can travel into orbit in a metal can… and poop in bags.

    Clearly one’s expectations have a great impact on one’s enjoyment of a situation.

  6. cd6 says:

    Taking this opportunity to plug this sweet tour of the ISS, if you haven’t seen it yet: