- A NASA safety panel revealed on Thursday that it is investigating a potentially „catastrophic“ software error that occurred during a crucial test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, a spaceship designed to carry astronauts.
- NASA administrators said software errors were „only symptoms“ of deeper problems with Boeing’s coding and possibly the company’s overall culture.
- Two journalists said Boeing downplayed or denied the software error when asked about it.
- NASA is launching a broader investigation into Boeing’s software integration and verification processes.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
NASA is investigating a previously undisclosed software issue that arose during Boeing’s test flight of a spacecraft designed to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
The Boeing spaceship, called the CST-100 Starliner, is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which asked private companies to develop new astronaut-ready spacecraft. Boeing and SpaceX came out on top in the competition, and the two companies are now racing to launch their first astronauts into space.
But during a crucial orbital flight test in December, a clock software error (it was set 11 hours ahead) led Boeing’s Starliner to initiate a phase of the mission it had not yet reached. That caused the spaceship to burn through 25% of its fuel, so Boeing had to skip docking with the space station – the primary goal of the mission – to save the Starliner from total failure.
Now, NASA has revealed a second software issue with the Starliner, which ground controllers had to fix in the middle of that test flight. In a call with reporters on Friday, Boeing and NASA officials said the error could have caused a collision between two units of the spacecraft: the crew module and the service module.
If Boeing hadn’t corrected the software error mid-flight, a collision could have sent the crew module tumbling or significantly damaged its protective heat shield. That might have led to „catastrophic spacecraft failure,“ Paul Hill, a member of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, said at a meeting on Thursday, according to SpaceNews.
Before that meeting, neither NASA nor Boeing had publicly disclosed the error.
No astronauts were onboard for the test flight, but the error has prompted NASA to launch a larger investigation into Boeing’s coding and culture.
Symptoms of a deeper problem
Foto: A computer rendering of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship jettisoning its service module before returning to Earth.sourceBoeing
Boeing said it found the second issue after the first error with the clock, since that prompted engineers to review the spaceship’s code while it was flying.
If they hadn’t caught the second error, it could have caused the wrong thrusters to fire just before the spacecraft re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. That’s the point when the crew module separates from the service module.
Boeing and NASA officials said that incorrect thruster-firing could have bounced the service module back toward the crew model, potentially causing a crash.
„Nothing good can come from those two spacecraft bumping,“ Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s space program, said in the call.
Following the failure of Boeing’s test flight, NASA convened a team to examine the issues that occurred.
„They are likely only symptoms. They are not the real problem,“ Doug Loverro, a NASA associate administrator, said in the Friday call.
The heart of the problem, the NASA investigators found, is several coding defects that Boeing’s testing team didn’t catch before flight.
„We want to understand what the culture is at Boeing that may have led to that,“ Loverro said.
The team is still investigating some other intermittent issues that disrupted communications between the spacecraft and ground control as well.
„Software defects, particularly in complex spacecraft code, are not unexpected. However, there were numerous instances where the Boeing software quality processes either should have or could have uncovered the defects,“ NASA press officer Marie Lewis wrote in a blog post on Friday.
2 journalists say Boeing downplayed or denied the glitch
Foto: Astronauts train inside a mockup of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spaceship.sourceBoeing
Ars Technica reported that a source had tipped the publication off to the second Starliner software error in mid-January. But when reporter Eric Berger reached out to Boeing about it, he said, a company spokesperson „downplayed the gravity of the situation.“
„According to the source, Boeing patched a software code error just two hours before the vehicle reentered Earth’s atmosphere. Had the error not been caught, the source said, proper thrusters would not open during the reentry process, and the vehicle would have been lost,“ Berger wrote.
But the Boeing spokesperson, he said, told him that the software patch „had nothing to do with Crew Module reentry.“
Chris Gebhardt, of NASASpaceflight.com, said on Twitter that he’d faced a similar situation: Boeing and NASA had denied a second software issue altogether when he inquired.
NASA administrators on Friday defended themselves and Boeing for not discussing the second error while the investigation was ongoing.
„Had we had the discussion back then, we probably would’ve gotten it wrong. I think it’s not that we were not revealing something,“ Loverro said. „We didn’t want to speculate on that at the time.“
This failed orbital flight test was not the first time that Boeing has come under fire for a software glitch with catastrophic consequences. On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that the company uncovered yet another software error in its 737 Max airplanes, which have been grounded since March 2019. Software errors caused the plane to crash twice in five months, killing 346 people.
An ‚even broader‘ assessment of Boeing’s software practices
Foto: The state of construction for Boeing’s first CST-100 Starliner spaceship in March 2018.sourceBoeing
The NASA safety panel called for a broad assessment of how Boeing integrates, verifies, and tests its software.
„The panel has a larger concern with the rigor of Boeing’s verification processes,“ Hill said. „Further, with confidence at risk for a spacecraft that is intended to carry humans in space, the panel recommends an even broader Boeing assessment of, and corrective actions in, Boeing’s [systems engineering and integration] processes and verification testing.“
NASA appears to be following this recommendation.
Lewis said NASA has asked its independent investigation team to do „a more in-depth analysis as to why the anomalies occurred, including an analysis of whether the issues were indicative of weak internal software processes or failure in applying those processes.“
Citing „potential for systemic issues,“ panel chair Patricia Sanders said Thursday that the investigation will be similar to an internal safety review the agency did after SpaceX CEO Elon Musk smoked marijuana during a podcast recording.
Part of that investigation will involve reviewing all of the Starliner’s software, which is comprised of roughly 1 million lines of code, officials said.
„Our NASA oversight was insufficient. That’s obvious,“ Loverro said. „And I think that’s good learning for us.“
Boeing and NASA declined to say whether Starliner will re-do the orbital flight test. In an earnings report released January 29, Boeing included $410 million expense to cover a potential second uncrewed flight.
SpaceX’s orbital flight test, meanwhile, went smoothly. The company is expected to launch its first astronauts – probably the first people ever to fly commercial spacecraft, given likely delays for Boeing – in the coming months.
„The Commercial Crew program is broader than a single provider, and that’s intentional,“ NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said. „We have two providers, SpaceX and Boeing, that are going to take American astronauts to the International Space Station.“
Dave Mosher contributed reporting.
iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar – MacRumors
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and iPhone X.
Battery percent has not been present on iPhones that have Face ID because of the lack of space on either side of the notch that houses the TrueDepth camera hardware. The new design adds the specific battery level to the battery icon, providing a better idea of battery status at a glance.
In iOS 15 and earlier versions of iOS, the battery icon shows a visual of the battery level, but it does not provide a specific percent. To get that information, iPhone users need to swipe down into Control Center or swipe over to the Today center view to see the battery widget.
The battery icon changes colors based on the status of the battery, and the color of the iPhone’s wallpaper. When charging, for example, the battery icon is green and shows a charging indicator.
Battery percentage can be toggled on and off in the Settings app in the Battery section. The battery percentage feature appears to be available on most iPhones that have a notch, but it is not an option on the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 13 mini, iPhone 11, or iPhone XR perhaps due to space constraints and/or display quality.
iOS 16 beta 5 is available to developers at the current time, and Apple will be releasing a public beta in the near future.
Apple has “started to record” its virtual September event, where it’s expected to announce the upcoming iPhone 14 lineup, the Apple Watch Series 8, and a new “rugged” Apple Watch model, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman says the event, which is expected to take place in the early part of September, is already under production, implying…
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup’s color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year.
Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro’s selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the …
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and…
Apple today seeded the fifth beta of iOS 16 to developers for testing purposes, introducing some small but notable changes to the iOS operating system.
Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. We’ve rounded up everything new in the fifth beta below.
Battery Percentage in Status Bar
The battery icon in the status bar now displays the exact battery percent, a feature that …
The camera bump on the upcoming iPhone 14 Pro Max is expected to be the largest rear lens housing Apple has ever installed on its flagship smartphones, and a new photo offers a rare glimpse at just how prominent it is compared to Apple’s predecessor device.
iPhone 14 Pro Max dummy (left) vs iPhone 13 Pro Max All iPhone 14 models are expected to see upgrades to the Ultra Wide camera on the…
While the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch Series 8 are expected to be announced in September as usual, there are several more Apple products rumored to launch later this year, including new iPad and Mac models and more.
Beyond the iPhone and Apple Watch, we’ve put together a list of five Apple products that are most likely to be unveiled by the end of 2022.
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How to watch Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2022 in Canada – MobileSyrup
Samsung will hold its next Galaxy Unpacked event today, August 10th, at 6am PT/9am ET.
As usual, we don’t know exactly what will be featured there, although it’s expected that we’ll see the Galaxy Fold 4, Galaxy Flip 4, new Galaxy Watches and more.
It’s also worth noting that to coincide with Unpacked 2022, Samsung is offering a $100 e-voucher to use towards your next purchase of any Samsung product. To claim this, you’ll need to register through this site and provide some information, including your name, phone number and current device.
What are you looking forward to seeing at Unpacked 2022? Let us know in the comments.
WhatsApp to bring screenshot blocking to THESE types of messages – HT Tech
WhatsApp to now bring the ability to block screenshots to View Once messages. Know when this feature is coming.
WhatsApp is constantly adding new features to enhance the texting experience and these are coming faster than we could get used to them. Lately, the developers have focused on enhancing the privacy for users with a couple of new features. The ability to leave WhatsApp groups silently has draw a lot of attention lately. One can also choose who can see your online status going forward, and who can’t. However, there is another new feature that will help those who want to share sensitive media and can’t risk someone taking a screenshot of the same.
A while ago, WhatsApp rolled out the ability to send messages that can only be viewed once. The View Once feature currently only allows the media to be shown once but someone can still take a screenshot of the media, thus denying the point of the feature. Now, WhatsApp is modifying the feature, wherein it prevents the ability to take a screenshot. The feature is under development and WhatsApp hasn’t revealed the date yet.
WhatsApp to block screenshot
“View Once is already an incredibly popular way to share photos or media that don’t need to have a permanent digital record. Now we’re enabling screenshot blocking for View Once messages for an added layer of protection. We’re testing this feature now and are excited to roll it out to users soon,” says WhatsApp in its official blog.
WhatsApp will also reveal more about this and several other features in the days to come via its own campaign. “To spread the word about these new layers of protection, we’re also kicking off a campaign to educate people about the new features and our continued commitment to protecting your private conversations on WhatsApp. We hope people enjoy getting to use these new features and benefit from several options that help you keep your messages secure. We look forward to your feedback on what to build next,” it says.
Prior to this WhatsApp, recently released the ability to transfer message backups from Android to iOS devices. The same can be done from iOS to Android as well.
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