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NASA finds 3 errors resulting in Boeing Starliner’s anomaly in debut flight

Atta Ur Rehman KhanWeb Editor & Columnist

10th Feb, 2020. 08:50 pm
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NASA and Boeing' Starliner

NASA, U.S. space agency released its initial findings from an investigation over Boeing’s spacecraft Starliner on Friday, which scrapped its plan to dock with the International Space Station due to an orbit insertion anomaly last December of the last year.

According to the details, After saying for weeks the spacecraft and systems performed “as designed” after recovering from a Mission Elapsed Timer issue just 31 minutes after launch and point-blank saying that no other anomalies occurred on the mission, Boeing and NASA have now admitted that two more serious issues — one of which could have led to the Loss Of Vehicle — occurred during Starliner’s first mission.

In a call with reporters Feb. 7, NASA and Boeing officials said they had made no decisions about whether a second uncrewed test flight, or Orbital Flight Test (OFT) of the spacecraft will be needed, but that there were significant issues with the spacecraft, in particular how its software was developed, that need to be corrected.

“We do think that the OFT flight had a lot of anomalies,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine during the call.

After that, NASA and Boeing formed a joint investigation team and they found three specific concerns. Among them is an error with the Mission Elapsed Timer (MET), which incorrectly polled time from the rocket booster nearly 11 hours prior to launch, The sources of Xinhua said.

They also found a software issue within the spacecraft’s Service Module Disposal Sequence, which incorrectly translated the disposal sequence into the Service Module Integrated Propulsion Controller, according to NASA.

Third, an Intermittent Space-to-Ground forward link issue impeded the Flight Control team’s ability to command and control the vehicle.

The investigation team has identified the direct causes and preliminary corrective actions for the first two anomalies. The intermittent communications issues are still under investigation.


NASA said there were numerous instances where the Boeing software quality processes “either should have or could have uncovered the defects.” Due to the breakdowns found in design, code and test of the software, the Starliner team have to take systemic corrective actions.

Also, NASA will examine the workplace culture with the commercial crew provider ahead of a mission with astronauts.

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