Progress Fails To Make Progress

It’s been a really bad week for the Russians with two rocket failures in the last seven days and four failures total in less than a year.

Russian Progress space freighter lost

An unmanned freighter launched to the International Space Station (ISS) has been lost.

The Russian space agency said the Progress M-12M cargo ship was not placed in the correct orbit by its rocket and fell back to Earth.

The vessel was carrying three tonnes of supplies for the ISS astronauts.

. . .

It appears the Soyuz rocket’s third and final propulsion stage shut down early. As a result, the Russian federal space agency (Roskosmos) said, the Progress vessel “was not placed in the correct orbit”.

. . .

Officials reported the ship coming down in Russia’s Altai province, some 1,500km northeast of the launch site. A loud explosion was heard in the region and there were reports of windows being blown out, but it is not thought there were any injuries on the ground as a result of wreckage coming out of the sky.

See also:
Russia’s Progress M-12M launches toward ISS – fails to achieve orbit
Russian supply spacecraft crashes after launch
Russian cargo rocket lost in rare launch mishap
Technology.ISS supplies strained as Russian Progress freighter crashes to Earth
Space station manager: We can weather the Russian crash
Rocket headed for space station crashes
Russian Progress unmanned ISS resupply vehicle lost during launch
Russian Progress space truck crashes in Siberia
Unmanned Russian Supply Ship for Space Station Crashes
Search Underway for Remains of Russian Spacecraft
Debris from Russian space freighter falls in south Siberia
Spaceship crash ‘exposes Russia’s systemic failures’
Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter
Roscosmos to tighten control of space industry after rocket lost
Russia grounds rocket, orders probe
Russian spacecraft lost to apparent engine failure uninsured
Will cargo crash leave ISS crew high and dry?

It’s not that I was a big fan of the space shuttle, but if the Russians can’t get these recurrent rocket failure problems under control, there’s a possibility that the International Space Station might eventually have to be abandoned, because there’s currently no available alternative to supply the ISS. The ISS managers are putting on a brave face that they can manage the cargo loss, but losing three tons of scheduled resupply has just got to hurt.

/what is it they say about putting all your eggs in one basket?

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Hardly A Fair Trade

Seriously, how could we be sure whether or not we killed the exact Taliban responsible for last Saturday’s deadly attack? If we knew who and where these barbaric cretins were, we probably wouldn’t have lost the Chinook in the first place.

U.S. kills Taliban insurgents who downed SEALs’ helicopter

The retribution wasn’t long in coming.

An American airstrike killed the Taliban insurgents whose attack caused a helicopter crash that killed 22 Navy SEALs and eight other U.S. service members, military officials in Kabul and Washington said Wednesday.

However, Marine Gen. John R. Allen, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told reporters at the Pentagon that the main Taliban leader in the area remained at large. He did not identify that insurgent commander, the hunt for whom set in motion the events that led to the crash of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter on Saturday.

. . .

Special operations forces tracked down a group of “less than 10” insurgents and called in an airstrike from an F-16 fighter jet, Allen said. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Kabul said the strike took place early Tuesday in the Chak district of Wardak province, close to the area where the Chinook helicopter was shot down.

See also:
U.S. Says It Killed Taliban Who Hit Copter
U.S. forces kill Taliban fighters who downed helicopter
Copter attackers found, killed in strike
US-Led Forces Kill Taliban Militants Behind Helicopter Attack
Strike kills insurgents who downed helicopter in Afghanistan, top commander says
Taliban helicopter shooter killed by United States
Military killed Taliban who downed US helicopter

There’s so many questions yet to be answered regarding this incident, including which CH-47 variant was shot down, why were so many SEALs crammed onto a single helicopter, and why was SEAL Team Six being used on what’s variously, so far been described as a rescue mission, a reinforcement, or an independent, follow on raid?

/this “we got the Taliban that killed our SEALs” makes for a heartwarming tale of revenge but, given how many times this story has already changed, I remain skeptically waiting for the real truth to unfold, if it ever does come out

Do The Microsoft Patch Dance

The dance that never ends.

Microsoft Patch

Microsoft released 13 security bulletins, patching 22 vulnerabilities across its product line, including two critical updates affecting Internet Explorer and the Windows DNS Server.

While Microsoft issued fewer updates this month, August was still marked as a busy month for system administrators. Adobe Systems Inc., which issues fixes on a quarterly cycle, issued a critical security update late Tuesday, repairing seven flaws in its Shockwave Player, more than a dozen holes in its Flash Player and an error in its Flash Media Server.

Microsoft addressed seven vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer including two zero-day flaws. According to MS11-057, Microsoft said an attacker who successfully exploited any of the vulnerabilities could gain the same user rights as the local user. Microsoft said the most severe vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted Web page using Internet Explorer

. . .

Another noteworthy bulletin is MS11-065, which resolves a vulnerability in the Remote Desktop Protocol. Although the security bulletin is rated important for users of Windows Server 2003, Miller said Microsoft has seen attacks targeting the flaw in the wild. The flaw can be targeted if an attacker sends a malicious remote desktop protocol connection request to the victim’s computer which could cause the system to crash.

See also:
Microsoft Security Bulletin Summary for August 2011
Microsoft Fixes IE, Windows DNS Server Flaws In Patch Tuesday Update
Microsoft Patches 22 Security Holes
Microsoft Security Patch Fixes 20-Year-Old Flaw
Microsoft fixes 22 security bugs
Microsoft’s August Patch Tuesday security update to tackle critical flaws in IE and Windows Server
Your Microsoft Patch Tuesday update for August 2011
Microsoft to Fix 22 Software Flaws in Its August Patch Tuesday Update
Hefty Microsoft August Patch Delivers 13 Security Fixes
IE, Windows server bugs likely to be exploited soon
Microsoft expecting exploits for critical IE vulnerabilities
Microsoft Update

Get busy downloading.

/so, until the next Patch Tuesday . . .

If It Weren’t For Bad Luck . . .

. . . the HMS Astute wouldn’t have any luck at all. Remember when she ran aground two weeks ago? Well, apparently the grounding wasn’t the worst part of ordeal.

HMS Hapless: submarine in crash No2 with tug

An investigation was already being held into the grounding of HMS Astute on a shingle bank off Skye last month after the £1 billion vessel, whose key attribute is stealth, was turned into a tourist attraction.

Now a new inquiry is underway after it was revealed that having survived the incident relatively unscathed, the submarine was damaged in a collision with the tug boat hired to free it.

The Anglian Prince was contracted by the navy to help pull the sub to safety.

But during the operation the towing rope became caught in the tug’s propeller and pulled the vessels together, damaging the Astute’s starboard foreplane.

A navy spokesman said the sub will be repaired at Faslane and trials will resume in due course.

He added: “The inquiry into the damage sustained by Astute is now complete, although the findings have still to be released to naval officers.”

The Anglian Prince, based in Stornoway, is normally under contract to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, but the Ministry of Defence took over its operation temporarily to help Astute.

It was undamaged despite the tangle with a nuclear submarine and is back in Stornoway, having since helped a cargo boat which got into difficulty off Rum this week.

See also:
Stricken Sub Astute Damaged By Rescue Tug
U.K.’s Stricken Nuclear Submarine HMS Astute Collided With Rescue Vessel
Revealed: Rescue tug crashed into stranded submarine HMS Astute causing millions of pounds of damage
Tug damaged HMS Astute while freeing it
Astute damaged in tug collision
HMS Astute submarine damaged by towboat
Stranded British submarine damaged in tug collision: navy
Call for debate on scrap-threat coastguard tug
Not So Astute

Thirty year old tugboat 1, brand new, multi-billion dollar nuclear submarine 0, talk about adding insult to injury, what an indignity. The Astute seems to be jinxed.

/maybe they should just scrap the Astute and put the Anglian Prince into active naval service, the tugboat has a better anti-submarine warfare record

What The Hell Happened?

It’s been over 24 hours now and still no one has any idea as to what caused Thursday’s bogus market plunge. Needless to say, that’s not good.

Yesterday’s market swerve: fat fingers, glitch, or cyber-warfare?

Theories about yesterday’s stock market swoon, where within a matter of 20 minutes, the stock market plunged by 1,000 points and then nearly completely recovered, are abounding. Fortune asked Rishi Narang, founder of the hedge fund Telesis Capital and author of Inside the Black Box, to share the theories he’s heard and handicap them in terms of likelihood and plausibility.

Narang, who uses high-frequency trading techniques, explains why high-frequency traders got out of the market during the dive, and why the catalyst for the drop is far more important to understand than the drop itself:

What happened yesterday?

There are two points to understand. First, what catalyzed the activity? What was the reason for the market wanting to fall? It might be that the catalyst was of such size that it overwhelmed all other factors. There are three plausible theories:

1) The fat finger. Plausible, but unlikely. Typing in billions with a “b” versus millions with an “m” seems impossible. Trading systems don’t work that way. More likely, the trading system accepts the sell/buy amount in thousands. Some trader in the heat of the moment forgets it’s in thousands, types in an order for 16,000,000 instead of 16,000. That kind of thing seems far more plausible.

But even then: why on Earth would the trading entry system not have a sanity check? For almost no one in the world is a $16 billion sell order okay to send out as soon as it’s entered. The trader should be fired, along with everyone in the IT department. If this happened, most likely, it was something along those lines. If it wasn’t all one order, maybe it was meant to sell just $1 billion shares but was sent 3 or 5 times instead of once.

2) Software error. Plausible, likely, but doesn’t fit the facts. Here, the trading software is in a recursive loop, pounding out sell orders due to a bug somewhere in the software. In a sense, this is more plausible, more likely, but doesn’t seem to fit the facts well enough.

The speed of the decline in the market just doesn’t seem to fit — should be a series of small orders, not a series of large orders. In 7 minutes we saw a 580-point drop. That doesn’t look like a recursive loop. But there is a lot of software, and somewhere a bug is bound to exist. You can easily imagine a software glitch happening. Things go buggy. Like the Toyota [accelerator] problem, at heart a software problem. Technology is a two-edged sword, and this is the other edge of the sword. We rely on software, but it’s not always written well enough.

3) Computer hacking. Implausible without proof, but possible. This is the most interesting theory because we know terrorists are interested in cyberterrorism. We know they would target the financial markets. We know a great day to launch an attack would be one with a mild bit of panic [due to the Greek crisis and sovereign debt downgrades].

Some other really crazy things happened with stocks, like Accenture and Exelon. [Both stocks traded for one cent for short periods of time.] Two parties really transacted on these trades [at one cent], even though they were later busted and cancelled. If it was just high-frequency traders bailing out, why wouldn’t [that drop] happen on every stock? It just doesn’t add up. Things are too idiosyncratic and that feels uncomfortable. This also happened in the options markets, but again, only on a handful of options.

And the second point to understand?

That’s the question of the enabler. What, if anything perpetuated the selloff? And did so in seconds? There’s a lot of speculation about high-frequency traders vanishing from the marketplace.

The consensus is that high-frequency guys didn’t provide the liquidity and that’s what allowed for prices like one penny on Accenture. I do know for sure that high-frequency traders backed off, but old school market makers would’ve done the same thing, in a little bit different way. They just would’ve created super-wide market spreads. Same thing.

We shouldn’t be so sanguine about taxes and impediments to high-frequency trading if we are upset when high-frequency traders leave the market. Those are incompatible ideas.

As a side point: traders have stop loss levels; one big move triggers other moves. There are systematic, discretionary, and plain-old panic trades.

But for all of those styles and programs, once they see the stock market fall 6%, a liquidation effect takes hold. That’s just a function of people. Someone screams fire, and if enough people start running, everyone will. Those are the dynamics of computer software, people, animals, fires, whatever. It’s how we work. That kind of stampeding effect could easily be part of the response.

But the speed of the market falling down, going back up, and partway back down again? If this was really a stampede, why not repeat the 1987 crash [which kept going]? Nothing ‘stopped’ this crash except that the catalyst seemed to have ended.

If it was an error or a software bug, it stopped. If it was a hack, the hackers left. In other words, the enabling side of this drop is totally irrelevant [to the catalyst]. The only interesting thing here is the catalyst. If this was a gas pedal that was stuck, it would’ve looked differently, kept going.

Whether this was intentional or unintentional, it happened all at once. If it was an intentional [attack], then the question is, was it a demonstration, a test, or the attack itself? Whatever it was, we didn’t stop it. It stopped itself.

See also:
Regulators Are Stumped by Drop
NYSE, Nasdaq bicker over stock-market drop
Plunge highlights fragmented markets, fast traders
Stock Market Crash? Or Trading Error?
Theories abound about how the 1,000 point Dow drop occurred
UPDATE: Everyone Seeks Answers Behind Stock Market’s Rout
Programs, NYSE Circuit Breakers Contribute To Market Plunge
Nasdaq cancels the trade of 296 stocks after Thursday’s Wall Street stock market crash
SEC reviewing Thursday’s sudden stock market drop
SEC Said to Outline Possible Causes of Market Plunge (Update1)
House panel to hold stock market inquiry

All I can say is that the investigators at the SEC had better get off their asses, take a break from their prodigious porn surfing, and get to the bottom of what exactly caused Thursday’s bogus market plunge. And they had better come up with a definitive answer quickly.

/the ongoing inability of exchange operators and regulators to pinpoint the problem is beginning to shake market confidence even more than the bogus plunge itself