NASA's Safety Panel Identifies Second Software Issue on CST-100 Starliner

NASA's Safety Panel Identifies Second Software Issue on CST-100 Starliner

The anomaly was discovered while the flight was in orbit. Boeing and NASA are investigating the exact cause of this failure. The two organizations are also still examining the timer error from the December test flight that was cut short

FREMONT, CA: A NASA safety panel has recommended a review of Boeing's software verification process after revealing there was a second software problem during a CST-100 Starliner test flight that could have ended in a major catastrophe. The new software issue was discussed during a meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel that examined the December uncrewed test flight of Starliner that was cut short by a timer error.

The anomaly was discovered while the flight was in orbit. “While this anomaly was corrected in flight, if it had gone uncorrected, it would have led to erroneous thruster firings and uncontrolled motion during service module separation for deorbit, with the potential for a catastrophic spacecraft failure,” said panel member Paul Hill. Boeing and NASA are investigating the exact cause of this failure. The two organizations are also still examining the timer error from the December test flight that was cut short. According to Hill, these problems suggest towards much broader issues with how Boeing is developing and testing software used by the spacecraft.

The panel has called for an in-depth review of Boeing’s flight software integration and testing processes. “The panel has a larger concern with the rigor of Boeing’s verification processes. Further, with confidence at risk for a spacecraft that is intended to carry humans in space, the panel recommends an even broader Boeing assessment of and corrective actions in, Boeing’s systems engineering and integration processes and verification testing,” said Hill.

Boeing stated that it had accepted suggestions from the panel along with recommendations from a separate NASA-Boeing independent review team (IRT) investigating the issues with the December Starliner flight. Both NASA and Boeing are yet to release any summary of the independent team's work. Boeing believes the new software problem is a valve mapping software issue, which was diagnosed and fixed in flight. “The error in the software would have resulted in an incorrect thruster separation and disposal burn. What would have resulted from that is unclear,” Being said in a statement. The company also added that the independent team has identified the root cause of the timer problem from the December test flight and offered corrective actions and recommendations.

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