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A graphics card can be a costly investment since high-end GPUs regularly sell for thousands of dollars. With that in mind, it’s not a surprise that buyers would want assurances about how long the graphics card will last.
While the average graphics card should last at least five years – and more if you don’t push it too hard – there are no guarantees that the card you purchase will outlive its warranty.What Affects a Graphics Card’s Longevity?
Most graphics cards will last for years, even if you use them every day and aren’t very careful with them. However, there isn’t exactly a simple answer for all GPUs since graphics cards of the same model won’t die simultaneously.
While the things you do with your card affect how long it lasts, some cards will simply die sooner for no apparent reason. That’s why it’s so important to treat your GPU well and try to make it last as long as possible.
Graphics cards wear out in a few different ways. To understand why the GPU will eventually die, consider these factors.
So even if your graphics card is well-made and built to last, it might not survive as long as you want if it isn’t cared for. People who take better care of their cards are more likely to see extended lifespans.Do Some Graphics Cards Last Longer Than Others?
While some graphics cards get a good reputation for reliability, it’s difficult to say whether a specific model will last longer than another.
Ultimately, the graphics cards most likely to last a long time are the ones treated gently. They aren’t overclocked and don’t have their voltage ramped up. Some people even lower the voltage or underclock their card to make it work a little less hard.How Can I Find a Graphics Card That Will Last a Long Time?
Look for over-engineered graphics cards that focus on cooling and have a solid build. You don’t want to choose something that will be bending under its own weight in six months. The solidity of the card and its cooling capabilities will help ensure it lasts for a long time.
Sometimes the life of a graphics card will outlive its usefulness if you run cutting-edge programs. I purchased a GTX 690 in 2012 that still works to this day. However, I’ve replaced it twice since then with a 1080 Ti and a 3080 Ti because I needed a performance boost for the games I play. That graphics card has kept running even though it’s no longer as effective as it once was.
One way to get an idea of how well a card is put together is to read reviews. Look to see how many people had a negative experience with the card dying early. Don’t purchase that card if you note an unusually high number of reviews about a poor experience.How to Make My Graphics Card Last Longer
You can do a few things to help your card have a longer lifetime. Computer components aren’t something you can plug in and then never touch or maintain again – at least, they aren’t if you like to have your parts last a long time.Power Management
Adjusting the power management on your card can extend its lifespan. The voltage determines how much power the card uses; some people recommend under-volting a card to help it use less energy. Over time, even a tiny difference can help you see reduced wear and tear on the card.Heat Management
There are various ways to remove heat from your graphics card that will help the stock fans on it do their job even better. Look for water cooling and other solutions, especially if you regularly see high temperatures.
If you want your GPU to last longer, you must keep an eye on the temperatures to get a good idea of how hot it runs from the beginning. If you know that it’s generally running around 65 degrees in a certain game and suddenly it’s pushing 80, it’s a sign that something is wrong.
You’ll know to run some diagnostics or check the card itself before the higher heat becomes a bigger problem.Maintenance
Maintain your card by keeping it clean, replacing the thermal paste as needed, and ensuring the rest of the case has the proper airflow.Case Cooling
Even if your graphics card is running at its best, there’s no guarantee it can remove as much heat as it should if the case isn’t properly cooled. You need fans bringing cool air in and moving hot air out.
Don’t leave your computer in a place that will get extremely hot, and always make sure your case is large enough to have some extra airflow.Consider Other Cards
If you aren’t going to be using graphically-intensive programs, consider whether you need an expensive GPU. You may be able to use a less expensive card that’s easier to cool or even integrated graphics. Less complex cards will have fewer components and likely generate less heat.Will My Graphics Card Still Be Useful at the End of Its Life?
Technology changes incredibly fast, and new graphics cards are released every year. Many people will want to upgrade to a more recent GPU before their current one dies.How to Choose a Futureproof Graphics Card?
While no graphics cards are entirely futureproofed, there are a few things to focus on if you want the most extended life possible for your card. Cooling and construction are the most important things that might help extend its life.
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How long do you expect your car’s tech features to work?
Technology is a funny thing. So much of how we perceive the functionality of the devices we use every day depends on the context in which they inhabit our lives. No one really expects their mobile phone to still be capable of running the latest apps, operating system, or tapping into the highest possible network speeds after three years of ownership, but you’d be extremely upset if your refrigerator was no longer able to keep food cool after sitting for five or even ten years in your kitchen. The pace of development for each of these devices – not to mention the features they’re expected to offer – is wildly disparate, and we’re programmed to accept their different lifespans even if in some cases they feature similar price tags.
Whither, then, the automobile? How long do you expect the technology in your car to keep working past the point of initial purpose? I’m not necessarily talking about the meat and potatoes of any car or truck – the drivetrain, suspension, and chassis – but rather the increasingly complex infotainment, connectivity, and yes, even the safety features that are built into modern vehicles.
It’s not a trivial question. The average age of any car or truck currently on the road hovers right around the decade mark, which means that there are plenty of new and old vehicles cruising the highways and streets as you read this. Currently, the industry finds itself in a frenzy to add increasing levels of telematics, infotainment, and connectivity features to automobiles at almost every price point, but if we were to flash forward ten years from now, how much of today’s gear would owners expect to still be usable – and what features, exactly, would drive owners crazy if it were to no longer be in service?
There aren’t many past examples to draw from. The only telematics service of note to boast a long-term track record is OnStar from General Motors, which has been in existence since the late 1990s. By the time the transition from analog cellular networks to digital occurred in 2008 (the FCC deadline for requiring providers to support analog), OnStar had already offered a high percentage of existing vehicle owners an affordable upgrade path (either free digital equipment with a single-year subscription, or a $200 equipment-only purchase). The catch? If the car was older than the 2003 model year, there was nothing that could be done, leaving some GM drivers disgruntled and at least a few trying to (unsuccessfully) launch a class-action suit against the company.
Today, the playing field is much more diverse. Almost every automaker offers some type of telematics functionality, whether it’s hands-free call routing, remote vehicle unlocking, locking, and starting, or constant contact between dealer service bays and vehicle diagnostic systems. Throw onto the pile a host of proprietary infotainment systems meant to connect with mobile phones and other devices over USB or Bluetooth, and use their Internet connections to stream content and access brand-specific features – not to mention complex driver’s aides such as radar-assisted cruise control and even self-steering, semi-autonomous technologies – and it becomes clear that we’re looking at more than a simple analog adaptor to keep everything running smoothly through a decade’s worth of tech upgrades and changes.
This is something car companies are thinking about on an almost daily basis as they continue to refine and develop new vehicle systems. In fact, it was a conversation I had with a representative from Nissan’s telematics division just last week while test driving the Nissan Rogue Sport that sparked this train of thought, and had me curious as to what SlashGear’s readers expectations were regarding the longevity of automotive technology.
Personally, I think automakers are in tough to guarantee the functionality of their various ‘connected car’ features over the long term. Something as simple as a shift away from the Android operating system, or a move to a faster data transmission standard (and the customer expectations for content and communications / potential sun-setting of slower spectrum devices that go with that) could have a significant ripple effect in the industry. These kinds of disruptions are also completely out of the control of even the largest car companies.
On the safety side, there’s a stronger case to be made that today’s cruise control will work just as effectively in 2027 as it does today. As long as automakers can maintain their supply chain of replacement parts, the software side should remain relatively easy to handle in-house The twist? With V2X and V2V communications looking to play a larger role on highways of the future, I have doubts that legacy systems will be able to integrate into whatever connected car environment awaits. Truth be told, we’re most likely at least 20 years away from that being a problem, which means it may not be a ‘problem’ at all as these vehicles age out of daily use – but even the lack of existing V2V standards today means competing systems could find themselves obsolete on a quicker timeline than expected as the market or regulators decide on a winner.
Once again, the humble refrigerator offers an intriguing window into how connected car owners might respond to their various features and options being grandfathered as time marches on. While it might be disappointing for a fridge linked up to the Internet of Things to no longer be able to keep tabs on its inventory of milk and auto-order replacements from Amazon once 6G networks make its antique 4G router obsolete, how many tears will be shed as long as it continues to keep beverages, meats, and veggies cold and fresh? As long as the car starts in the morning and gets you to work safe and sound, is it really so bad that you can’t check to see whether you left the windows down using your GoogleEye contact lenses?
What do you think? How long do you expect your car’s various connected features to keep working? The life of your warranty? The life of the car? Or somewhere in between?
Today, we’ll show you how to undervolt your Nvidia or AMD graphics card. Best of all, it’s free and fun to do! You can watch the video below to see the process in action, or follow our step-by-step directions below.Step 1: What you’ll need
Let’s gather the necessary tools for the job. We know the GPU shortage is rough, but you’ll need an Nvidia or AMD ‘Unobtanium’ GPU for this to work. Older generation graphics cards work fine too, but your mileage may vary. A GPU that’s already heavily overclocked from the factory may require more work to reach a sweet spot as opposed to a reference or founders edition that’s closer to stock settings.
Many of the same principles will apply to both Nvidia and AMD GPUs, but they differ slightly in the most effective applications as we’ll see here:
MSI Afterburner, et al: This free utility tool will allow you to do all the tinkering on the GPU and monitor the vitals. This is recommended more for Nvidia GPUs. You can further supplement with HW Info64, which lets you monitor GPU Junction Memory temperatures on the RTX 3000’s VRAM. You’ll also want to download AMD’s Adrenaline Radeon Software if you’re running an AMD GPU, as it has great easy to use tools for this.
Heaven Benchmark: This is a free benchmark that can help you get real time feedback from your GPU settings.
Your Favorite Game: Don’t forget to do tests prior to undervolting, so you can see the improvements. Keep an eye on temperature and clock speeds. Take note of the stock specifications of your GPU as well as those by the manufacturer, so that you know if you’re hitting the numbers when undervolting.
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Open up MSI Afterburner and get acquainted with the different sliders and GPU data readouts. Here you’ll find temperatures, power limits, memory clock, and core clock speeds. Yours may have a different visual skin.
Run a Heaven Benchmark Pre-Test: We’re running a test on a stock Nvidia EVGA 3090 FTW3 Ultra using the Heaven Benchmark Extreme preset so we can see improvements afterwards. Out of the box boost, core clock will average around 1800Mhz for this GPU with temperatures around 83c and then hitting 86C after 30 minutes in an open chassis. The GPU will also downclock itself to under 1800MHz when temperatures are high by 15hz increments. Fans are at 83% to 86%, audible, but they’re not alarmingly loud. Memory speeds are stable at about 9751Mhz. Our stock Heaven score below is 7,350 or 291.8 FPS. We’ll compare this to our undervolted numbers soon.
Stock test with the Heaven benchmark.
Nvidia 3090 EVGA FTW3 Ultra stock, Heaven Benchmark Extreme:
Temperature: 83c to 86c after 30 minutes
Clock speeds: 1800MHz with occasional downclocking
Fans: 83% to 86%
Heaven Benchmark Extreme Score: 7,350 with a 291.8 FPSStep 3: Curve Editor
The curve editor: This will be the trickiest part of the process, but it gets easier afterwards. In MSI Afterburner, you’ll want to hit ‘control+F’ on your keyboard to open the curve editor. We’re looking at the GPU Core clock MHz frequency on the left (Y Axis) column, and the GPU Voltage on the bottom (X Axis) row.
Frequency and Voltage: For our GPU, we see that 1800MHz is the core boost clock. If we find that on the curve editor, it will fall right around 975 volts with stock out of the box settings. Your GPU will vary, even if it’s the same model, so be sure to check stats for your particular one.
You’ll want to drag it first to 1800MHz, and you can start at the 975V as a starting point. (Your numbers will differ depending on GPU) After hitting the check mark in Afterburner, the line should be straight after your selected frequency and voltage.
These are the basics of the process, but keep in mind the curve editor can be slightly tenacious with how it lines the frequencies up. You may have to do a little bit of tinkering to get it where you’d like.
I usually find that placing every point under your target frequency by holding CTRL and dragging down, followed by raising just the target frequency at your desired voltage will line up nicely after hitting the check mark in Afterburner.Step 4: Test, Adjust, and Test some more
Now the real fun begins. Using Heaven Benchmark, you can test various curve points for frequency and voltage. Heaven will typically crash if you’ve gone too far. If it keeps running, continue to test in your favorite games before determining if it’s a stable undervolt.
Test 1: After our initial stock 1800MHz and 975v starting point, we dropped the voltage down to 875v and slightly increased the frequency to 1815MHz. Here is the extreme preset result in Heaven Benchmark:
Clock speed: 1815MHz and automatically clocked higher to 1830MHz
Fan speed: 82%
Heaven Benchmark score: 7,433 with an FPS of 295.1
The above is a notable improvement in performance numbers, as well as moderately better thermals and noise. Let’s take it a step further and find some good efficiency.
Test 2: Let’s target 1815MHz again and see how the GPU responds at a lower 800v.
Clock Speed: 1800MHz Average
Fan Speed: 74%
Heaven Benchmark Score: 7341 With a FPS of 291.4
The results for 800v at 1815MHz were close to stock and thermally much better. Fans dropped from 86% to 74% and temperature dropped from 86c to 74c while maintaining the stock core clock speeds. Our score decreased slightly from 7350 to 7341 and FPS from 291.8 to 291.4, but this can be increased with some further tuning.
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With some further tweaks, we raised the voltage to 875v and frequency to 1890MHz. This netted us a score of 7556 at 300 FPS, but also brought temperatures to 80c and fans to 81%. Still more efficient than stock with higher performance to boot if this is the route that you’re after.
You’ll then have to decide if you want maximum performance gains, maximum efficiency gains, or a combination of both. This sweet spot will vary with each individual GPU due to the silicon lottery, however. We were happy with our first test results at 1815MHz and 875v, but the voltage can be decreased for even better thermals.
These various examples can show you how simple changes in either voltage or frequency can raise your performance up and down as well as temperatures.
The key thing here is to a sharp eye on a few vital points. Stability is the most important, followed by your other benefits.
It must be stable in Heaven Benchmark and your other games.
Watch the core clock to make sure it’s hitting the mark.
Watch thermals and power usage to make sure the improvement is realistic.
Experiment with different voltages and core clocks for best results.Undervolting AMD GPUs
If you’re running an AMD GPU, you’ll have access to the tools within the Adrenaline Radeon software.
Here we’re testing the AMD Reference RX 6800, which is custom water cooled. The stated boost frequency by AMD is typically 2105MHz, but here we’re allotted more headroom to over 2200MHz thanks to the extra cool performance.
Here, you’ll have a few options. You can manually set the voltage much like we did with the Nvidia GPUs. Experiment with just changing the voltage itself. With a drop from 1025mv to 893mv, we had a stable boost in performance. Temperatures, power draw, and noise levels were all down from stock. Benchmark numbers improved as well and that’s exactly what we like to see.
You can also use the auto undervolting feature found on the same page. Here the software will do the work for you, but it doesn’t always produce perfect results – for that you’ll have to do some custom tuning.
Improved results from undervolting
Undervolting is akin to fine art with some healthy science mixed in. The exact ingredients for your optimal sweet spot will vary based on GPU and it’s up to you to see what ultimately works best. The proof is in the proverbial pudding, however: the tests and stats above can help you gauge how successful your attempts at undervolting have been. Best of luck and get tinkering!
Editor’s note: This article was updated to add the video tutorial and update pricing.
If that’s no longer an option for you, you can rely on next day delivery, but that will cost you a few pounds, unless you’re signed up for services like Amazon Prime, which offers free next day delivery and even same-day delivery in certain areas.
For many, Amazon will the the go-to Christmas shop anyway, which is why we’ve gone through last days to order both with and without Prime. We’re also looking at Christmas delivery cut-off dates for other major retailers, as well as last-minute gifts that don’t require delivery at all.
If you’re still stuck for what to buy, you might find our round-up of the best Christmas tech deals of the year useful.Last days to order from Amazon
The last days to order from Amazon will depend on whether or not you have Prime, or how much you’re willing to pay to get your items on time. Many popular items are already flagged to arrive after Christmas, so be sure to check the delivery status before heading to check out.
If you haven’t already used your Amazon Prime 30 day free trial (you can use it once a year) we’d highly recommend doing so in order to save money on your deliveries this Christmas. You can sign up to the 30-day free trial here.Without Prime
Amazon hasn’t yet confirmed its last order dates, but based on past years we would suggest the following dates below – again, most items have a note that tells you whether or not it will arrive before Christmas. We will update these dates and time as soon as Amazon confirms.
Free delivery: Order by Sunday 20 December, at 11:59pm
Standard delivery: Order by Tuesday 22 December
One-day delivery (£5.99 per delivery for non-Prime members): Order by Wednesday 23 December, by last order time (as listed on the product page) to receive the item by Christmas Day. This also depends on the item and your location.
Same-day delivery (evening delivery): Order by Thursday 24 December at midday if you’re in Greater London or in one of the other eligible cities.With Prime
Prime Members receive free One-Day delivery as the default option (that is, if the product you buy is eligible for One-Day delivery).
One-day delivery: Order by Wednseday 23 December, last order time depends on the item and your location. The item should arrive by 24 December.
Same-day delivery: Order by Thursday 24 December at midday if you live in one of the 14 eligible cities.
Prime Now: Order by Thursday 24 December (Christmas Eve)
Typically with Prime Now, you should get free 2-hour delivery by midnight on Christmas Eve for order values over £40 if you order by 9:15pm (7:15pm in Glasgow). However, given the demands on delivery services due to the ongoing pandemic, delivery slots may be limited.
One-hour delivery will cost £7.99 and orders must be made by 10:59pm for delivery by midnight. Prime Now operates in one of the nine eligible cities: Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Portsmouth, and Sheffield. Read more about Prime Now.
Christmas Day – No deliveries madeLast order dates for other major UK retailers
There are still plenty of other retailers to choose from other than Amazon of course. Like Amazon, however, many of these retailers still haven’t confirmed cut-off dates in time for Christmas. We’ve noted last year’s dates as a guide but would recommend not waiting too long if you can. We’ll add more retailers to this list as they’re confirmed
TBC, Last Year: 23 December
24 December, order by 1pm for delivery by 6pm with Fast Track option (£3.95) but depends on availability
24 December noon
TBC, Last Year: Deliveries carry on as usual until 24 December, so 22 December is the cut off for standard two-day delivery (from £5)
23 December, before 5pm for Next Day Delivery (from £10)
No Next Day service on the 24-26 December. Delivery resumes on 27 December (subject to availability) but stops again between 31 December to 1 January.
Depending on availability, can be ready for next day collection by 9pm before 24 December
Currys PC World
19 December, free for small items
16 December, free for large items (£5 for Saturday delivery)
16 December, for Next-Day delivery on large items (from £20)
22 December, 9pm for Next-Day delivery on small items (£5)
24 December, 3pm (for items in stock)
21 December (for items that have to be delivered to store for collection)
TBC, last year: 20 December, by 7pm
TBC, Last year: 23 December for Next-Day or Nominated-Day before 7pm
TBC, Last year: 22 December before 10pm for Next Evening or Nominated Evening
TBC, Last year: 23 December, before 7pm
18 December, 7pm (free on £50 or over)
22 December, 8pm for Next Day delivery on small items (£6.95)
Free for orders over £30, order by 4pm 22 December
OR use Collect+ (£3.50) for pre-Christmas delivery
M&S (Expect 1-3 day delays via Royal Mail)
Dates vary by type of item.
Earliest date on hampers: 17 December, 5pm
23 December, 12pm
23 December (in-store pick up), order by 6pm for clothing only
22 December, midnight for Next Day Delivery
22 December, midnight for Next Day Delivery (£2 for nominated next-day delivery)
23 December for in-store collection
20 December, 9pm, arrives in 3-5 days (£1.99)
22 December, 9pm for Next Day Delivery (£5.99)
If you’re sending gifts or cards by mail from the UK, the Royal Mail has recommended its last dates to ensure delivery by Christmas. We recommending sending gifts before these dates however – especially for international deliveries – due to the impact of Covid restrictions and delivery demands.
2nd Class and 2nd Class Signed For – Friday 18 December
1st Class and 1st Class Signed For and Royal Mail Tracked 48 – Monday 21 December
Royal Mail Tracked 24 – Tuesday 22 December
Special Delivery Guaranteed – Wednesday 23 December
Keep in mind that the Royal Mail Tracked 48 and Tracked 24 options (which offer 2-day or 1-day express delivery) are unavailable at Post Office branches and will have to be purchased online from Parcel Force. You can get a price quote using Royal Mail’s tool here. See Royal Mail’s recommended dates for international delivery.Last-minute Christmas Gift Cards
If you’re shopping on Christmas Eve and can’t find anything to buy from Currys PC World, you might like to buy a digital gift that can be sent via email or printed at home. Go to Currys to get one.
Amazon offers digital gift cards too which are available here.
You’ll also find lots of e-gift cards online, including ones for retailers like Debenhams, Starbucks and lots more.
Next gift cards are available to buy digitally here.
One4All is another gift card option which works in over 55,000 stores on the High Street and online. Standard shipping costs 99p though is free for orders over £50 and arrives in 2 to 3 days. Special Delivery costs £6.50 and takes 1-2 business days to arrive.
How to Delete Files With Long Names [Easy Steps & Tips] Third-party file manager may help you delete the long file names
If you have a lot of files with long file names, it can be helpful to either shorten them or create new ones to make them more manageable.
However, you may have issues deleting long file names at times because your OS fails to process them.
In such a case, a third-party file manager that is capable of deleting the long file names comes in handy.
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To fix Windows PC system issues, you will need a dedicated tool
Fortect is a tool that does not simply cleans up your PC, but has a repository with several millions of Windows System files stored in their initial version. When your PC encounters a problem, Fortect will fix it for you, by replacing bad files with fresh versions. To fix your current PC issue, here are the steps you need to take:
Download Fortect and install it on your PC.
Start the tool’s scanning process to look for corrupt files that are the source of your problem
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Have you ever run into a file name that was too long to delete or a file extension that was superfluous? This can happen when you’re removing an old file or editing a new file with a long title. Some files in Windows are strange. You may find that the file name is too long to delete or rename.
If this sounds familiar, we’re here to lift that burden. You don’t have to be stuck with a file you want to get rid of. In this article, we shed more light on how to delete files with long names.What are long file names?
Long file names are file names that exceed the maximum length of 255 characters. You can use long file names as long as you want, but you must be careful to avoid problems when naming your files.
If you try to save a file with a long filename, Windows will automatically truncate the name to 255 characters or less and then save it to disk. A long filename that is too big for Windows to store on disk will result in an error when the user tries to use that file.
Long file names can be used for several reasons:Why can’t I delete files with long names?
There are many reasons that can prevent you from deleting files with long names. These include:
The file is open in another app – If the file is open in any program or application, the file will not be deleted immediately.
Not enough permission – Some files require an administrator account to be deleted. If you’re using a standard account, you may need to switch to one with administrator privileges.
You’re deleting a copy – If you try to delete a file that’s been renamed and its original name still exists in your current directory, then Windows will not be able to delete the new name until the original name is deleted first.
OS can’t process it – The operating system has a limit for the length of the name and if the file has a name that exceeds that limit, it will not be able to delete it.How do I delete files that are too long?
Before you proceed with any of these steps, we recommend you check the following:
Ensure you have administrative privileges.
Check that you have enough free hard drive space in your PC.1. Use a third-party file manager
Deleting long file names is a tedious task. It can be done using an automated tool or manually, but the latter is more time-consuming and cumbersome.
A third-party file manager is a great way to delete long file names from your computer. It will allow you to search for and select the files you want to keep, as well as delete them all at once.
Aomei Partition Assistant Professional is a third-party file manager that can be used to manage files and folders in your system. It is also one of the best partitioning software available on the market, so you can easily see what you are doing.
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While this method works most of the time, some file names are stubborn and won’t delete. For instance, when you try to delete a PDF with a long file name, you may be unsuccessful since most PDFs don’t allow any edits.
You can choose to install PDF editor software to help you edit the file but most of them are paid for. The free ones may be able to help but a majority of them come with basic features. If this works, you should be able to delete the file but if it doesn’t, proceed to the next step.3. Delete via Command Prompt
Hopefully, one of these methods has been able to help you get rid of the long file name that wouldn’t delete. Aside from file names, you may also have trouble deleting a folder. If you encounter such an issue, don’t hesitate to check out our expert article on the same.
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In this modern economy, apparently nothing is sacred — not even the space shuttle is spared the indignity of training its younger replacement. During what is planned to be the last shuttle flight ever, astronauts onboard space shuttle Endeavour next February will test a new docking system designed for the Orion spacecraft. The system provides real-time 3-D images to the crew and is more streamlined and more accurate than the shuttle’s docking sensors.
Last week, the STS-134 crew got a preview of the technology from Ball Aerospace, whose engineers designed the system with workers from Lockheed Martin, NASA’s primary contractor on the Orion project. The new docking system involves an eye-safe flash Lidar Vision Navigation System and a high-definition docking camera. The system’s resolution is 16 times that of the shuttle’s, and it provides data from as far away as three miles, triple the shuttle’s ability.
It’s not often that engineers can test future spaceflight systems in space, notes Jeanette Domber, the project lead for the shuttle test, called “Sensor Test for Orion Relative Navigation Risk Mitigation” (STORMM).
“There’s nothing like collecting data in this environment, compared to the testing we can do on the ground,” she said.
On the 11th day of the last shuttle mission, astronauts will make a penultimate departure from the International Space Station and move about 3.5 miles away. As the shuttle slowly returns to the ISS, the Orion docking system will switch on. The shuttle will approach the station the way Orion would, and engineers at Ball, Lockheed and NASA will gather streams of data to improve their system’s algorithms.
Astronauts will really be using the shuttle’s existing docking system, but astronaut Andrew Feustel (currently co-starring in the Hubble IMAX movie) will take the new one for a test drive.
The tests will improve spacecraft docking capability regardless of what Congress and the White House decide to do with the Constellation program. It could be used by pilots or in unmanned craft, says Lisa Hardaway, Ball’s chief engineer for the Orion project. If the Obama administration decides to send a vehicle to an asteroid, for instance, a system like this could simplify the rendezvous.
“The beauty of our instruments is that they can be used on any vehicle for any application. For any incarnation that Orion ends up in, our vehicle is still applicable,” Hardaway says.
Befitting the space program’s legacy, the system might also be useful for Earth applications — its capability to determine shapes, intensity, and distance could improve terrain mapping, deforestation monitoring and hazard-avoidance systems in transportation.
The space shuttle uses different sensors as it approaches the ISS. At far distances, astronauts track their target with radar. As they approach the station, they use a trajectory control system and a laser.
The new system integrates everything, Domber says. The Lidar system sends out a laser pulse, which is reflected to a sensor and translated into computer data. The astronauts will know exactly where their spacecraft is relative to its docking target, and the high-def camera shows them a real-time view.
Lidar systems can be dangerous, especially for astronauts peering out the space station’s cupola to catch a view of the action. Engineers had to build a small but powerful Lidar laser that wouldn’t hurt astronauts’ eyes, Domber says: “We have done eye-safe lasers that require much more power, and are larger, and we have done not-eye-safe lasers in a small package. We needed to combine the two to make it safe.”
The laser fits in the palm of your hand, and the whole package is about the size of a bread box. It is the latest in a suite of new technologies meant to further NASA’s goal — if not Obama’s — to see Orion fly in 2013.
And the latest to help shepherd the shuttle into the annals of history. Learn more about it in this video.
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