Software Troubles On Boeing Starliner Spacecraft; NASA To Investigate Deeper

Wednesday, 12 Feb, 2020

NASA says its working with Boeing to set up a free examination group to survey a months ago not exactly consummate lady trip of Boeings CST-100 Starliner space taxi, and is thinking about whether another uncrewed dry run to the International Space Station will be required. That was all revealed by the Atlas 5's flight control system. "Further, with confidence at risk for a spacecraft that is meant 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". In addition, damage to the Starliner's heat shield could have caused the capsule to burn up on reentry, he noted. The budget also includes the cost to troubleshoot the problems and fix them.

Engineers are still analyzing the cause of the communications glitches that prevented a quick correction of the timing issue at first.

Details: The uncrewed Starliner was expected to dock with the space station after its launch on december 20, but a software issue involving a timer onboard the craft prevented the two from connecting, forcing Starliner to come back to Earth days early, on december 22.

That issue's existence was pointedly denied by Boeing's Ramon Sanchez, Senior Operations Lead for Starliner, at a 15 January media event in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center where the Starliners are built.

Boeing along with SpaceX was provided with $4.2 billion and $2.5 billion in 2014 respectively to develop separate capsule systems capable of ferrying astronauts to the space station from American soil for the first time since the US Space Shuttle was retired from service in 2011.

The second flaw - which NASA and Boeing did not disclosed at the time - involved a "valve mapping software issue", which Boeing said was also diagnosed and fixed in flight. He told reporters NASA shares some of the blame for the software problems.

Loverro believes that oversight from NASA was insufficient: "That's obvious, and we recognize that". "That's obvious. And we recognize that, and I think that's good learning for us".

The investigation team also is looking into a third problem, an intermittent space-to-ground communication problem that hampered controllers' ability to command and manage the capsule early in the flight.

However, NASA was expecting software defects, especially in complex spacecraft code, as they revealed in a statement. "And so, we want to understand what the culture is at Boeing, that may have led to that". "And those were obviously press reports that we've seen from other parts of Boeing, as well as what seemed to be characterized as these software issues".

A second private company is on track to launch astronauts for NASA as early as this spring.

According to the report, Boeing and Elon companies building space taxis to astronauts to the station separately in an effort of NASA to revive the human spaceflight program. The Soyuz seats go for tens of millions of dollars apiece.

Starliner is supposed to be ready to carry humans to the International Space Station (ISS) later in 2020, along with SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft.

NASA's Office of the Inspector General warned late previous year that these problems could lead to smaller ISS crews until the commercial crew program is ready to go.