Boeing capsule test marred by multiple software errors, poor radio link

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 21 2019

The team had no choice but to redirect the spacecraft so it would make it into a stable orbit.

The recent report by panel member Paul Hill revealed that the newly developed software bug, which Boeing said was fixed while the Starliner was still in orbit, could have lead to the enormous firings that ultimately could have resulted in the catastrophic spacecraft failure. "The latter applications problem might have caused" catastrophic spacecraft failure", a panel of NASA security experts said on Thursday, if Boeing hadn't captured the problem during the assignment.

In a teleconference with reporters, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that an independent review team identified several issues during the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission. Just in case, Boeing reported last week that it took a $410 million charge in its fourth-quarter earnings, to cover a possible mission repeat. The agency hopes that this will assist Boeing to remedy breakdowns discovered in the manner in which the company designs, codes and tests flight software.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program chose Boeing and SpaceX to develop spacecraft that would end USA reliance on Russia's Soyuz program to travel to and from the International Space Station.

In December, Boeing was supposed to show everyone that the Starliner was able to launch and autonomously navigate to the International Space Station (ISS). Clearly, this is something to be addressed before NASA completely before they are ready to send their astronauts aboard a Boeing. NASA investigators found that the source of the issues related to coding defects that Boeing's testing team did not find before the flight test. "That error in the software would have resulted in an incorrect thruster separation and disposal burn", Boeing said. "What would have resulted from that is unclear".

Investigators found "fundamental" problems with the company's software that could have led to a disastrous outcome more grievous than previously known, the U.S. space agency said on Friday. The team is also making "significant progress" on resolving communications dropouts that exacerbated problems early in the test flight.


Boeing said it can consider a second uncrewed Starliner test flight before its first flight with astronauts if NASA gives the approval.

NASA also stated that they were launching an Organizational Safety Assessment of Boeing's work on the Commercial Crew Program.

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 review of SpaceX proved to be valuable to both NASA and the company, so it's a prudent step to execute the same process with the other provider", she said.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing's Starliner spacecraft onboard is viewed as it's rolled out. "And so, we want to understand what the culture is at Boeing, that may have led to that".

The panel is still finishing its own review of the mission and craft. She said SpaceX still has to resolve a number of technical issues, such as the interaction of titanium with nitrogen tetroxide, which was blamed for the explosion of a Crew Dragon spacecraft during preparations for a static fire test of its abort engines in April 2019.

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