Enlarge /. The Boeing Starliner spacecraft is back at the company's Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility after its test flight in December.
After the failed Boeing Starliner spacecraft test flight in December, NASA released Monday the results of an investigation into the root causes of the launch failure and culture that led to them.
During the course of its review, an independent team identified 80 "recommendations" that NASA and Boeing should consider before launching the Starliner spacecraft. These recommendations not only require better monitoring and documentation, but also emphasize the need for larger tests to integrate hardware and software. In particular, the review team requested an end-to-end test using the maximum amount of flight hardware available before each flight.
This is significant as Boeing did not run an integrated software test prior to the December test flight that spanned approximately 48 hours from launch to docking with the station. Instead, Boeing broke the test to pieces. The first part ran from the start to the point where Starliner separated from the second stage of the Atlas V booster.
As a result, the spaceship captured the incorrect "elapsed mission time" from its Atlas V launcher while flying in December. It was supposed to pick up this time during the final phase of the countdown, but instead data was collected that was 11 hours away from the correct time. This resulted in delayed orbit pressure and caused the vehicle's engines to consume too much fuel. For this reason, Starliner has not docked at the International Space Station.
A second error, intercepted and resolved by the atmosphere just a few hours before the vehicle returned to Earth, was due to a software mapping error that would have caused the Starliner service module engines to be misfire. Starliner was almost lost. The combination of these two errors prompted NASA to launch a so-called "High Visibility Close Call" investigation.
"Every mission is a learning experience," said NASA Human Space chief Kathy Lueders during the press conference.
More software control
The investigation revealed both problems with the Boeing software and the process being monitored by NASA. Lueders acknowledged that the agency had focused its efforts more on reviewing "high-risk" areas of the mission (for example, when Starliner was near the space station, for which NASA designed, developed, and launched more than $ 100 billion). Dollar invested with international contributions.
"It has always been a difficult problem," said Lueders. "Where do you use the resources to make sure you get the most profit from your money?" As a result, NASA learned that given Boeing's "fairly widespread software problems," it needed to have more control over software.
Boeing announced in April that it would fly a second Starliner test mission for NASA at its own expense. The company provided $ 410 million to pay for the capsule, Atlas V rocket, and the cost of a second mission.
NASA officials said they hoped to be able to fly this mission later in 2020, but it will depend on whether Boeing and NASA dozens of Starliner software upgrades, built-in tests of this new software are successful, and the space station Additional mission can include a crowded schedule late this year.
If this test flight is successful, NASA allows Boeing to conduct a test flight with three astronauts. This could happen sometime in 2021.