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Officials Raise Concerns About Software for the Most Powerful Rocket Ever Flown

NASA’s 322-foot rocket “Space Launch System” rocket “would be the most powerful rocket ever flown, eclipsing both the Saturn V that flew astronauts to the moon and SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy,” reports the Washington Post.

But “it’s not the rocket’s engines that concern officials but the software that will control everything the rocket does, from setting its trajectory to opening individual valves to open and close.”

Computing power has become as critical to rockets as the brute force that lifts them out of Earth’s atmosphere, especially rockets like the SLS, which is really an amalgamation of parts built by a variety of manufacturers: Boeing builds the rocket’s “core stage,” the main part of the vehicle. Lockheed Martin builds the Orion spacecraft. Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman are responsible for the RS-25 engines and the side boosters, respectively. And the United Launch Alliance handles the upper stage. All of those components need to work together for a mission to be successful. But NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel recently said it was concerned about the disjointed way the complicated system was being developed and tested…

Also troubling to the safety panel was that NASA and its contractors appeared not to have taken “advantage of the lessons learned” from the botched flight last year of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, which suffered a pair of software errors that prevented it from docking with the International Space Station as planned and forced controllers to cut the mission short. NASA has since said that it did a poor job of overseeing Boeing on the Starliner program, and has since vowed to have more rigorous reviews of its work, especially its software testing…

NASA pushed back on the safety panel’s findings, saying in a statement that “all software, hardware, and combination for every phase of the Artemis I mission is thoroughly tested and evaluated to ensure that it meets NASA’s strict safety requirements and is fully qualified for human spaceflight.” The agency and its contractors are “conducting integrated end-to-end testing for the software, hardware, avionics and integrated systems needed to fly Artemis missions,” it said.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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