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“Clowns Supervised by Monkeys” Boeing Puts Space Industry in Danger

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  • Boeing’s unmanned CST-100 Starliner space taxi narrowly avoided a “catastrophic failure” during a December test flight.
  • The problem was due to a software bug that led to erroneous thruster firings, according to NASA. This comes at a time when Boeing is still reeling from two fatal crashes due to faulty MCAS software in the 737 MAX.
  • The bug calls Boeing’s software verification process into question. And it suggests that the toxic culture that produced the 737 MAX infects the entire company.

“Clowns supervised by monkeys.” That is how some of Boeing’s (NYSE:BA) own employees described their colleagues in internal messages the company released as part of the investigation into the approval of the controversial 737 MAX.

The plane, which is currently grounded, went on to kill 346 people in two crashes due to its faulty MCAS software.

Unfortunately, it looks like the “clowns” at Boeing haven’t learned their lesson. The toxic and ridiculous corporate culture that developed the 737 MAX is alive and well. But this time, it’s putting the future of manned spaceflight in jeopardy.

Catastrophic Failure

According to a NASA safety review panel, Boeing narrowly avoided a massive malfunction during the December test flight of its CST-100 Starliner. Boeing’s Starliner is a space crew transportation vehicle developed to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station.

The test flight was an unmanned trip designed to evaluate the safety of the vehicle. It was actually cut short for failing to reach the correct orbit during the test – an unrelated failure.

New reports reveal that the CST had potentially devastating software bugs that could have led to erroneous thruster firing that could have caused “catastrophic spacecraft failure,” according to Paul Hill, a member of the NASA safety review.

Hill goes on to state:

The panel has a larger concern with the rigor of Boeing’s verification processes.

According to Reuters, he suggests:

The agency should go beyond merely correcting the cause of the anomalies and scrutinize Boeing’s entire software testing processes.

Boeing responded:

We are already working on many of the recommended fixes including re-verifying flight software code.

Boeing Could Set Spaceflight Back Decades

With interest in commercial spaceflight heating up, the last thing the industry needs is a high profile space disaster. Companies like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are planning to send humans to space in the next few months, and fatal crashes could undermine public confidence in the burgeoning industry.

It’s still unclear whether or not NASA will make Boeing repeat the unmanned docking test before allowing the (potentially dangerous) CST-Starliner to carry astronauts.

When Cost-Cutting Goes Wrong

The CST-Starliner’s software issues are the latest in a series of problems plaguing Boeing. These issues didn’t start with the 737 MAX. In fact, Boeing has been selling potentially dangerous planes to the United States military through the KC-46 Pegasus program.

Since its inception, the KC-46 program has been plagued with difficulties. These include the plane’s remote vision systems and its refueling boom. Boeing even delivered KC-46s with loose tools and other debris left inside the planes after manufacture – an oversight so egregious that the air-force had to ground the entire fleet.

Is it Time to Break Boeing Up?

Lou Whiteman, an analyst at the Motley Fool, suggested in a December podcast that Boeing should be broken up. His reasoning is that the company is too large and complex to manage effectively. With Boeing making blunder after blunder in every endeavor – from commercial aviation and defense contracts to spaceflight – Lou may be on to something.

Boeing is too big to fail. It has become a massive risk to the U.S. economy, and something needs to be done about it.

But whether or not we think the company should be dissolved into smaller, easier-to-manage pieces, I think we can all agree that it’s time for the “clowns and monkeys” in Boeing’s software development to quit their jobs and go work in a circus.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.

This article was edited by Sam Bourgi.

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Britain in talks with 6 firms about building gigafactories for EV batteries

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Britain is in talks with six companies about building gigafactories to produce batteries for electric vehicles (EV), the Financial Times reported on Wednesday, citing people briefed on the discussions.

Car makers Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co Ltd, conglomerates LG Corp and Samsung, and start-ups Britishvolt and InoBat Auto are in talks with the British government or local authorities about locations for potential factories and financial support, the report added .

 

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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EBay to sell South Korean unit for about $3.6 billion to Shinsegae, Naver

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EBay will sell its South Korean business to retailer Shinsegae Group and e-commerce firm Naver for about 4 trillion won ($3.6 billion), local newspapers reported on Wednesday.

EBay Korea is the country’s third-largest e-commerce firm with market share of about 12.8% in 2020, according to Euromonitor. It operates the platforms Gmarket, Auction and G9.

Shinsegae, Naver and eBay Korea declined to comment.

Lotte Shopping had also been in the running, the Korea Economic Daily and other newspapers said, citing unnamed investment banking sources.

South Korea represents the world’s fourth largest e-commerce market. Driven by the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce has soared to account for 35.8% of the retail market in 2020 compared with 28.6% in 2019, according to Euromonitor data.

Shinsegae and Naver formed a retail and e-commerce partnership in March by taking stakes worth 250 billion won in each other’s affiliates.

($1 = 1,117.7000 won)

 

(Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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Canada launches long-awaited auction of 5G spectrum

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Canada is set to begin a hotly anticipated auction of the mobile telecommunications bandwidth necessary for 5G rollout, one that was delayed more than a year by the pandemic.

The 3,500 MHz is a spectrum companies need to provide 5G, which requires more bandwidth to expand internet capabilities.The auction, initially scheduled for June 2020, is expected to take several weeks with Canadian government selling off 1,504 licenses in 172 service areas.

Smaller operators are going into the auction complaining that recent regulatory rulings have further tilted the scales in the favour of the country’s three biggest telecoms companies – BCE, Telus and Rogers Communications Inc – which together control around 90% of the market as a share of revenue.

Canadian mobile and internet consumers, meanwhile, have complained for years that their bills are among the world’s steepest. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government has threatened to take action if the providers did not cut bills by 25%.

The last auction of the 600 MHz spectrum raised C$3.5 billion ($2.87 billion) for the government.

The companies have defended themselves, saying the prices they charge are falling.

Some 23 bidders including regional players such as Cogeco and Quebec’s Videotron are participating in the process. Shaw Communications did not apply to participate due to a $16 billion takeover bid from Rogers. Lawmakers and analysts have warned that market concentration will intensify if that acquisition proceeds.

In May, after Canada‘s telecoms regulator issued a ruling largely in favour of the big three on pricing for smaller companies’ access to broadband networks, internet service provider TekSavvy Inc withdrew from the auction, citing the decision.

Some experts say the government has been trying to level the playing field with its decision to set aside a proportion of spectrum in certain areas for smaller companies.

Gregory Taylor, a spectrum expert and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said he was pleased the government was auctioning off smaller geographic areas of coverage.

In previous auctions where the license covered whole provinces, “small providers could not participate because they could not hope to cover the range that was required in the license,” Taylor said.

Smaller geographic areas mean they have a better chance of fulfilling the requirements for the license, such as providing service to 90% of the population within five years of the issuance date.

The auction has no scheduled end date, although the federal ministry in charge of the spectrum auction has said winners would be announced within five days of bidding completion.

($1 = 1.2181 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Vancouver; Editing by David Gregorio)

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