Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft encountered a second major software error when it first went into space in December – and if not corrected, it would end in a “catastrophic spacecraft failure,”media Outlet The Verge reported. Fortunately, Boeing has fixed it, but the problem has safety experts worried about the company’s continued oversight of its spacecraft.
Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft is designed to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Boeing launched Starliner in its first unmanned test flight on December 20. The purpose of the flight was to demonstrate the spacecraft’s ability to enter space, dock with the International Space Station, and then return to Earth. But the task did not go according to plan. A software failure during the launch prevented Starliner from triggering the thruster ignition at the correct time, resulting in the spacecraft entering the wrong orbit.
The spacecraft never reached the International Space Station and landed much earlier than expected. NASA’s Aviation Safety Advisory Group said at a public meeting Thursday that it now appears that Boeing has found a second software failure as Starliner enters orbit. Although the details are vague, the failure could cause Starliner’s thrusters to fire unnecessarily when they land on Earth, and the spacecraft will move uncontrollably.
NASA and Boeing disclosed the first software error during the launch, but both companies remained silent on the second. The news was not made public until Thursday at a security panel meeting.
Boeing said in a statement sent to The Verge that it was “investigating valve mapping software issues that were diagnosed and repaired during the flight.” The Company stated that errors in the software would result in incorrect thruster separation and disposal of ignition. The reason is not yet known. NASA has not responded to a request for comment.
The panel said both Boeing and NASA were investigating the causes of the software problems. But team members are concerned about Boeing’s testing procedures, and they want NASA to study the company’s agreement on Starliner management and processing. “The team has a greater focus on the rigour of Boeing’s verification process,” PAUL Hill, a member of ASAP, said at the meeting. “
At the same time, NASA is trying to determine whether it wants Boeing to repeat Starliner’s unmanned flight tests because the spacecraft failed to reach the space station as planned. The decision will be made in the coming weeks.