It didn’t crash – but, courtesy of Boeing, we still need to worry…

NASA is reviewing Boeing Co.’s software engineering, and it doesn’t like what it sees.

Lurking behind 1 million lines of code for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft lies a deficient development process that led to two software flaws during a failed test flight, the U.S. space agency said Friday. The “critical software defects” — either of which could have caused the uncrewed Starliner’s destruction — prompted NASA to open a broad review of Boeing’s quality control…

Boeing’s coding skills have been under intense scrutiny because of software implicated in two Max crashes that killed 346 people. NASA officials conceded that the high-profile problems of Boeing’s best-selling jet suggested the need for a broader look into the company’s culture — and why systems designed to find coding faults had failed.

The errors “could have led to risk of spacecraft loss,” NASA said, though engineers were able to compensate during the test flight and return the vehicle back to Earth undamaged.

Sooner or later, NASA is supposed to trust the lives of astronauts to go into outer space in a craft built by a company whose latest, greatest airplanes are something I wouldn’t fly in…to Chicago.

19 thoughts on “It didn’t crash – but, courtesy of Boeing, we still need to worry…

  1. Max Q says:

    “Boeing’s 737 Max Software Outsourced to $9-an-Hour Engineers” (Bloomberg, June 28, 2019) https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-06-28/boeing-s-737-max-software-outsourced-to-9-an-hour-engineers
    “Boeing Engineering Crisis Started Long Ago” (Seeking Alpha, 1/15/20) https://seekingalpha.com/article/4316840-boeing-engineering-crisis-started-long-ago
    Summary:
    ● Boeing’s engineering crisis became visible to the public with the 737 MAX crashes, but has been ongoing for over a decade, affecting all developments.
    ● Many point at the McDonnell Douglas merger as Boeing’s rotation to squeeze out every dollar.
    ● Boeing should learn that safety is not a relative thing that you stick to when it pleases you and a commodity you trade when schedule risk needs to be mitigated.

  2. Tom Corbett says:

    “NASA Shares Initial Findings from Boeing Starliner Orbital Flight Test Investigation” (Commercial Crew Program, National Aeronautics and Space Administration press release 2/7/20) https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/2020/02/07/nasa-shares-initial-findings-from-boeing-starliner-orbital-flight-test-investigation/
    “Boeing’s botched Starliner test flirted with ‘catastrophic’ failure: NASA panel” (Reuters UK 2/6/20) https://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-exploration-boeing/boeings-botched-starliner-test-flirted-with-catastrophic-failure-nasa-panel-idUSKBN20106A
    “NASA still must decide whether to make Boeing repeat the unmanned docking test before spacecraft can carry astronauts. Boeing recorded a $410 million charge last month to cover that possibility.
    “The panel has a larger concern with the rigor of Boeing’s verification processes,” said Hill, a former NASA flight director who now serves on the panel that advises NASA on safety issues. Speaking during the panel’s quarterly meeting on Thursday, Hill said the agency should go beyond merely correcting the cause of the anomalies and scrutinize Boeing’s entire software testing processes.”

  3. Red Handed says:

    “The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has opened a criminal investigation of a former top NASA official, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
    The grand jury investigation concerns communications between Doug Loverro, then the chief of human spaceflight for NASA, and Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s space and launch division. These discussions occurred early this year, during a blackout period when NASA was taking bids to construct a Human Landing System for the Artemis Moon Program. It is not permissible to interfere with a competition for government contracts.
    “Mr. Loverro, who wasn’t part of NASA’s official contracting staff, informed Mr.Chilton that the Chicago aerospace giant was about to be eliminated from the competition based on cost and technical evaluations,” the report states, citing unidentified sources. “Within days, Boeing submitted a revised proposal.”
    Loverro resigned from NASA in mid-May, a few weeks after NASA awarded three Human Landing Systems contracts: $579 million to a team led by Blue Origin, $253 million to Dynetics, and $135 million to SpaceX. Boeing and one other bidder did not receive awards.
    https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/08/nasa-official-may-face-criminal-investigation-for-contact-with-boeing/
    “Why did NASA’s human spaceflight chief Doug Loverro abruptly resign? We spoke to him. Here’s what he said.” (5/21/20) https://www.space.com/why-nasa-human-spaceflight-chief-doug-loverro-resigned.html

  4. Update says:

    “Launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule delayed indefinitely” https://www.space.com/boeing-starliner-launch-delayed-indefinitely
    “NASA, Boeing Starliner launch to ISS delayed again due to technical issue
    The first test flight in 2019 didn’t end well. Boeing dusted itself off for a second attempt this summer, but it’s now been scrapped twice.” https://www.cnet.com/how-to/nasa-boeing-starliner-launch-to-iss-delayed-again-due-to-technical-issue/

  5. Money2Burn says:

    “Boeing Starliner launch delayed again as it returns to the factory for troubleshooting
    Valve issues have closed this launch window” https://www.theverge.com/2021/8/13/22623609/boeing-starliner-capsule-iss-launch-valve-troubleshooting-delay
    “Boeing’s Starliner to go back to factory for repairs, probably causing another major delay for troubled program
    Boeing and NASA officials say they are ‘disappointed’ after yet another setback but will work to solve the problem” https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/08/13/boeing-destack-starliner-delay/
    “Boeing said Friday that it will remove its Starliner spacecraft from atop of a rocket to fix valves that have remained stuck, a decision that will probably force yet another months-long delay in its do-over of a test flight without astronauts aboard.
    Boeing engineers have been trying since Aug. 3 to fix the problem, one in a series of significant issues that has plagued its troubled spacecraft program and become another symbol of Boeing’s woes in the wake of the 737 Max scandal.”

    • Update says:

      NASA’s big rocket misses another deadline, now won’t fly until 2022 https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/08/nasas-sls-rocket-will-not-fly-until-next-spring-or-more-likely-summer/
      Although years late and many billions of dollars over budget, the launch of this rocket will in some ways be a minor miracle. For a large bureaucracy like NASA, completing complex human spaceflight tasks is difficult. And the SLS rocket is complex both technically and politically.
      Concerned about job losses after the space shuttle retired, Congress imposed this rocket on the space agency, down to dictating its various components to ensure that space shuttle contractors such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Aerojet Rocketdyne continued to receive substantial space program funding. Each contractor was given a “cost plus” contract that ensured funding but provided little incentive for on-time delivery.
      NASA has spent more than $20 billion on the program so far.

  6. Update says:

    Former NASA leaders praise Boeing’s willingness to risk commercial crew : “I think if they look back on it, they wouldn’t do it again.” https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/05/actually-boeing-is-probably-the-savior-of-nasas-commercial-crew-program/
    On Thursday, the company will attempt to launch a do-over mission—a second uncrewed test flight of Starliner intended to dock the spacecraft with the International Space Station. Because of the need to re-fly this test mission after the first one failed in 2019, Boeing has taken more than half a billion dollars in losses.
    It now seems possible, if not probable, that Boeing has lost money on the commercial crew program, for which NASA [US taxpayers] has paid it $5.1 billion since 2010. One sign that Boeing may be seeking to cut costs emerged last week during a meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, when member David West raised concerns that Boeing was not putting enough resources toward Starliner’s development and test campaign.

  7. Will C. says:

    NASA live: Thursday, May 19 https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive
    6 p.m. – Coverage of the Launch of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. (Launch scheduled at 6:54 p.m. EDT; coverage continues through the orbital insertion engine firing for Starliner approximately 31 minutes after launch)
    9 p.m. – NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 post-launch news conference (time subject to change)

    • Ah-ha says:

      “Engineers at Boeing can let out a big sigh of relief.
      The defense contractor’s much-delayed Starliner spacecraft finally made its way into stable orbit Thursday evening, after launching atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the culmination of years of setbacks and complications.
      But even in the course of that small victory, not everything went according to plan. Two of Starliner’s thrusters didn’t fire as planned just over 30 minutes into the flight. One thruster only managed to provide orbital insertion thrust for a single second. Its backup fired for 25 seconds before also giving up.
      Fortunately, a third backup thruster was able to heave Starliner into stable orbit.” https://futurism.com/the-byte/boeing-starliner-orbit-two-engines-fail
      …Boeing claims everything went as planned.

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