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Software errors could have destroyed Boeing Starliner, NASA says – CBS News

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Two software errors detected after the launch of a Boeing Starliner crew ship during an unpiloted test flight last December, one of which prevented a planned docking with the International Space Station, could have led to catastrophic failures had they not been caught and corrected in time, NASA said Friday.

An independent review board “found the two critical software defects were not detected ahead of flight despite multiple safeguards,” according to an agency statement. “Ground intervention prevented loss of vehicle in both cases.”

In a teleconference with reporters, Douglas Loverro, director of spaceflight operations at NASA Headquarters, said the issues uncovered by the investigators go beyond the specifics of the software errors and an unexpected communications glitch that initially prevented flight controllers from commanding the spacecraft.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner blasts off last December. The flight was marred by a software error that prevented a planned rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station and another programming glitch could have led to the vehicle’s destruction at the end of the flight had it not been caught and corrected in time.

United Launch Alliance


“Too put it bluntly, the issue that we’re dealing with is that we have numerous process escapes in the software design, development and test cycle for Starliner,” he said. The errors themselves “are likely only symptoms, they are not the real problem. The real problem is that we had numerous process escapes” that allowed the errors to slip through.

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The Starliner software is made up of a million lines of code and “as we go forward, that is what we’re going to be concentrating on, how do we assure ourselves that all of the software that we’ve delivered, not just the two routines that were affected by these issues, are fixed.”

“Our NASA oversight was insufficient,” Loverro concluded. “That’s obvious, and we we recognize that. And I think that’s good learning for us. The independent review team didn’t just have recommendations for Boeing, it’s got recommendations for us as well, and we’re going to take all those to heart.”

Neither Loverro, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine nor Boeing Starliner project manager John Mulholland would speculate on whether a second unpiloted test flight might be ordered or even whether a Starliner, piloted or unpiloted, would fly this year. No such decisions will be made until after the safety review concludes at the end of the month.

“We will not speculate right now on a specific launch date,” Mulholland said. “What we have to do is fully understand the scope of the corrective actions, implement that into a work plan. Once we get that scope defined … we’ll be able to evaluate a specific launch target.”

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner was launched from Cape Canaveral atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on Dec. 20. The goal of the flight was to put the commercial crew ship through its paces, from launch through rendezvous and docking with the space station to re-entry and splashdown, to clear the capsule for a piloted test flight.

The Atlas 5 put the Starliner onto a sub-orbital trajectory as planned. After release from the rocket’s Centaur second stage, the spacecraft was expected to fire its own thrusters to put the craft into a safe orbit. But the critical orbit insertion rocket firing never happened, and the Starliner continued along a trajectory that, without quick corrective action, would have resulted in a catastrophic unplanned re-entry.

After struggling with communications glitches, engineers finally managed to regain control and put the spacecraft in a safe orbit. But by then, too much propellant had been wasted to press ahead with a planned rendezvous with the International Space Station. Instead, flight controllers focused on carrying out as many other tests as possible before bringing the ship down for landing in New Mexico two days later.

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The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with its drum-shaped service module attached.

Boeing


The Starliner’s failure to execute the orbit insertion burn was blamed on software that incorrectly set the spacecraft’s internal clocks based on data retrieved from the Atlas 5’s flight control system. The Starliner code should have retrieved the time during the terminal countdown, after the Atlas 5’s clocks were precisely set for launch.

Instead, the Starliner computer retrieved the time used during an earlier countdown sequence and as a result, its timer was 11 hours off from the actual time. That, in turn, threw off the timing of downstream post-launch events, including the orbit insertion burn.

With that problem finally corrected, engineers began reviewing other critical software sequences as a precaution and discovered yet another problem. Software used to control thruster firings needed to safely jettison the Starliner’s service module just before re-entry was mis-configured, set for the wrong phase of flight.

Had the problem not been found and corrected, the cylindrical service module’s thrusters could have fired in the wrong sequence, driving it back into the crew module and possibly triggering a tumble or even damaging the ship’s protective heat shield.

While a detailed analysis was not carried out at the time, “nothing good can come from those two spacecraft bumping back into one another,” said Jim Chilton, a senior vice president for Boeing Space and Launch.

The timing problem was widely known during the Starliner test flight, but the service module issue was not revealed in any detail until a meeting of the NASA Aerospace Safety and Advisory Panel Thursday, setting off widespread social media calls for more information and “transparency” from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA responded with the on-line statement and media teleconference Friday.

“It is very unusual for NASA to do a press conference about what the investigation results are as the investigation is underway,” Bridenstine said. “But in the interest of transparency and, you know, some of the things that I saw online yesterday, I wanted to make sure that everybody knew kind of where we were in the investigation.”

Engineers are still investigating what caused the communications glitches that initially prevented flight controllers from quickly correcting the timing issue. As it turns out, Mulholland said high background radio noise, possibly from cell phone towers, may have played a role.

In any case, “software defects, particularly in complex spacecraft code, are not unexpected,” NASA said in its statement. “However, there were numerous instances where the Boeing software quality processes either should have or could have uncovered the defects.

“Due to these breakdowns found in design, code and test of the software, they will require systemic corrective actions. The team has already identified a robust set of 11 top-priority corrective actions. More will be identified after the team completes its additional work.”

Said Mulholland: “Nobody is more disappointed in the issues that we uncovered … than the Starliner team. But to a person, they’re committed to resolving these issues in partnership with NASA and the IRT and safely returning to flight.”

Since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011, NASA has been forced to buy seats aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. and partner astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

To end sole reliance on Russia for transportation to and from the space station, NASA announced in 2014 that Boeing and SpaceX would share $6.8 billion to develop independent space taxis, the first new U.S. crewed spacecraft since the 1970s.

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An artist’s impression of a Boeing Starliner capsule in orbit.

Boeing


Under a $2.6 billion contract, SpaceX is building a crewed version of its Dragon cargo ship that will ride into orbit atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. Boeing’s Starliner is being developed under a $4.2 billion contract.

SpaceX carried out a successful unpiloted flight to the space station in March 2019, but suffered a major setback the following April when that same Crew Dragon capsule was destroyed during a ground test. The California rocket builder has recovered from that incident and carried out a successful in-flight abort test in January.

It is widely expected that SpaceX will be ready to launch a Crew Dragon carrying two NASA astronauts — Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken — sometime this spring.

Boeing’s unpiloted test flight in December was only partially successful because of the two software errors and the communications glitch. It’s not yet known whether NASA will order a second unpiloted test flight or whether Boeing will be cleared to press ahead for a piloted mission after corrective actions are implemented.

“It’s still too early for us to definitively share the root causes and full set of corrective actions needed for the Starliner system,” NASA said. “We do expect to have those results at the end of February, as was our initial plan.

“Most critically, we want to assure that these necessary steps are completely understood prior to determining the plan for future flights. Separate from the anomaly investigation, NASA also is still reviewing the data collected during the flight test to help determine that future plan. NASA expects a decision on this review to be complete in the next several weeks.”

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Samsung camera test: Galaxy S20 Ultra's 108-megapixel camera, 100x zoom photos – CNET

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The Galaxy S20 Ultra is all about the camera.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Of Samsung’s three new phones, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is the one most stuffed with camera goodies. While Samsung redesigned the entire camera system (the company says S20’s sensors are three times larger than the Galaxy S10), it’s the 108-megapixel sensor and 100x AI-assisted zoom that make the biggest splash. Part of my job during my ongoing Galaxy S20 Ultra review is to evaluate if the photo experience helps justify the Ultra’s $1,400 price. 

I’ve already shot dozens of photos, peering at them closely from my computer screen and on the phone. It’d be overkill (and probably break your browser) if I shared them all here, so consider these the highlights. In the coming weeks, my colleagues and I will snap and analyze hundreds of photos and scores of video to drill down into exactly where the S20 Ultra’s camera stands, especially against top competition like the iPhone 11 Pro MaxGoogle’s Pixel 4 and Huawei’s Mate 30 Pro

These photos are not touched up or edited in any way unless stated. But note that they have been processed by CNET’s content image tool — you won’t see every pixel, but you’ll hopefully see enough to give you an early idea of the S20 Ultra’s camera performance. I’m also testing the regular and 8K mode video camera, but those files are huge and harder to share here. There will be plenty of footage in the final review, though.


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Galaxy S20 Ultra cameras

  • 108-megapixel main camera: You need to select the 108-megapixel quick setting to take a super high-resolution photo, otherwise images resolve to 12-megapixel (using nona-binning, which essentially creates one super pixel out of ever 9 individuals pixels. Part of the benefit of such a high-resolution image is to get more detail when you crop into a shot.
  • 12-megapixel wide-angle lens: Samsung enlarged the sensor, so this isn’t the same camera as on the Galaxy Note 10 or S10 phones even though it uses the same megapixels. The goal is to let in more light, for better image quality, especially in low light.
  • 48-megapixel telephoto camera: This gets you up to 100x “space zoom,” a feature that uses AI algorithms to take shots at extreme distance. The higher the zoom, the shakier your photo will be (a monopod or tripod is key).
  • DepthVision camera: I didn’t go out of my way to test this yet, but it’s meant to assist with various camera modes. You can’t take individual photos from it.
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Main camera and standard resolution.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

What I think so far

In abundant lighting scenarios, the S20 Ultra’s photos look fantastic: crisp and bright, with plenty of detail. Low light shots get a typical Samsung boost of brightness that you may love or find a little overly cheerful, but that comes down to your mood. Selfies look good, and there’s even a new feature to select a warmer or darker image tone than the default (to apply to the scene, not to skin).

At this early stage in my testing, the two marquee features confuse me. In some of my shots using the 108-megapixel camera option versus the main camera’s 12-megapixel resolution, the benefits of using 108 are clear. Cropping in or zooming in on the image, the superior detail practically punches you in the face. In others, I don’t see much difference. In others still, zooming in on the phone screen or in a full-screen image on the computer reveals mushier edges and more noise than the 12-megapixel counterpart.

I’m going to keep testing that.

The camera’s 100x zoom feature absolutely works, but at such distance, images are intensely blurry, and to me, fairly unusable beyond showing off the phone’s technological capability. I’m just not sure why Samsung didn’t stop at a really good 30x zoom, apart from one-upping competitors. I’m open to being convinced as I continue to learn about the feature and use it in the wild.

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Main camera and standard resolution.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Ultra-wide angle shot.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Main camera, standard resolution.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Main camera, standard resolution.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

*The 108-megapixel resolution version of this image was too large to load.

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Crop from standard resolution image.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Crop from 108-megapixel resolution image.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Main camera, standard resolution.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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SF Museum of Modern Art. No zoom.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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At 10x zoom.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Now at 30x zoom.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Here we are at 100x zoom.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Obligatory backlit selfie.

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Shot on automatic mode with main camera, low-light conditions.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Crop in of 108-megapixel version is impressively detailed.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

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Shot in automatic mode in low light conditions.


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

This story will be updated often with new photos. Keep checking back for more!

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5 reasons you should stick with your Galaxy S10 instead of buying the new Galaxy S20 – Business Insider – Business Insider

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  • The Galaxy S20 represents one of the biggest leaps in Samsung’s phones in years because of new features like 5G connectivity and a smooth 120Hz screen that makes for a powerful experience. 
  • But the Galaxy S20 starts at $1,000, which makes it a pricey upgrade. You can trade-in your Galaxy S10 for up to $600, which gives you a massive discount for the Galaxy S20. But that’s still spending $400 for not much reason at all. 
  • The new features in the Galaxy S20 will surely feature in Samsung’s next smartphone in 2021. Since the Galaxy S10 is only a year-old, it’s worth saving your money until at least the next Samsung phone is released. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 is one of the biggest leaps we’ve seen on a Samsung phone, even when you compare it to last year’s Galaxy S10

The new devices have totally refreshed camera systems, 5G connectivity, a glorious 120Hz screen, and even Samsung’s Quick Share that’s reminiscent of Apple’s AirDrop — an incredibly useful feature loved by iPhone users. 

These are worthy upgrades, even if you’re a Galaxy S10 owner. But there’s one big, massive obstacle that prevents me from recommending that anyone upgrade from the Galaxy S10 to the Galaxy S20. 

I’m talking about the Galaxy S20’s $1,000 minimum price tag. 

On their own, those four numbers after the dollar symbol should deter most Galaxy S10 owners from upgrading. There isn’t a slightly pared down and less expensive model like the Galaxy S10e.

Samsung does, however, give you the option to trade-in your Galaxy S10 for a huge $600 credit towards a new Galaxy S20, bringing the price tag down from $1,000 to $400. That’s a pretty great deal that almost made me stop writing this article. 

Still, that’s $400 you’d be spending over what you spent on the Galaxy S10 just one year ago. 

Here’s a quick reminder on why your Galaxy S10 is still great, and why a massive $600 discount still doesn’t justify the upgrades you’d get on the Galaxy S20:

The Galaxy S10 phones are still strong performers with great specs.

galaxy s10 custom wallpaper



Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


The Galaxy S10 phones run on the top hardware from 2019, including the Snapdragon 855 chip and between 8 GB and 12 GB of RAM. Those specs will run the Android operating system, your apps, and games just fine for at least another year until Samsung launches a new phone in 2021. 

And it still looks like a modern, sleek smartphone.

Samsung S10 Smartphone



Hollis Johnson/Business Insider


The Galaxy S10 is still among the prettiest smartphones, even after the Galaxy S20 was announced. They’re classy and clad in premium materials like metal and glass.

The Galaxy S10 has the same variety of camera lenses, including a regular, ultra-wide, and zoomed lens.

Samsung S10 Smartphone



Hollis Johnson/Business Insider


The base Galaxy S20 doesn’t offer much more in the camera front compared with the Galaxy S10. Yes, Samsung added new sensors with more megapixels and zoom than ever before, but that’s unlikely to fix one of the biggest issues with Galaxy smartphone cameras, which typically try too hard to make your photos look good. It often results in photos that look badly photoshopped. Plus, the Galaxy S20’s ultra-wide cameras clock in at 120-degree field-of-view, which is actually slightly narrower than the 123 degrees offered by the S10’s ultra-wide lens.

It’s hard to justify spending $1,000 on the biggest upgrade in the Galaxy S20 that you don’t get with the Galaxy S10: 5G.

***EMBARGO FEB 11*** samsung galaxy s20 5g



Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


5G is one of the biggest upgrades you get with the Galaxy S20. After all, 5G is the next generation of wireless networks that promises better performance than today’s 4G LTE. It’s a pretty big deal. 

With that said, 5G networks are still quite sparse. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be connected to a 5G network if you get the Galaxy S20. T-Mobile users will have the best chance, as T-Mobile’s 5G network has the most coverage so far. Just note that T-Mobile’s 5G network is the long-range version, which also means it’s the slower version of 5G. You can expect somewhat faster speeds than 4G LTE, but it’s not the super fast 5G you may have heard about. 

AT&T and Verizon have the super fast 5G networks so far, but the coverage is extremely limited at the moment. Verizon and AT&T customers may get a glimpse of 5G connectivity if they happen to live in a city where these carriers have deployed it, but their 5G networks are unlikely to be the primary networks you’ll be connecting to on a daily basis. 

There’s also the Galaxy S20’s buttery-smooth 120Hz screen, but I wouldn’t ditch a year-old-phone just for that feature.

galaxy s20 ***FEB 11 EMBARGO***



Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider


No doubt about it. The Galaxy S20’s 120Hz screen makes for a buttery-smooth look and feel while you’re swiping around. It gives off the impression that the phone is more powerful and advanced than previous phones with standard 60Hz screens, like your Galaxy S10!

Still, I wouldn’t ditch a year-old phone just to get that smooth screen experience. It’s a feature that’s likely to stick around for a while, and it’ll surely be on Samsung’s next big smartphone in 2021, and the year after that, and after that, and so on. There’s no rush, basically. 

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BMW M5 Drag Races Audi RS6, AMG E63, Panamera Turbo S – Motor1

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We are about to witness the greatest lineup of luxury rocketships take on a drag strip to see which is quickest. This popular formula perfected by the Germans takes a luxury sedan or wagon and injects mind-bending performance. The result is a practical and fast car fit for a family. All of the best from BMW M Division, Audi RS, Mercedes AMG, and Porsche work to build the best version of these mad performance cars, but who built the quickest?

First up we have the all-new Audi RS 6 Avant. This super wagon is the stuff of dreams combining a 600 horsepower twin-turbo V8 with the practicality of a family wagon. The RS 6 uses an 8-Speed automatic gearbox instead of the dual-clutch found in other Audi RS products due to the massive 590 lb-ft of torque. The RS 6 also uses Audi’s legendary Quattro All-wheel-drive system which is a massive help getting the 4600lb wagon off the line.

Next, we have the Mercedes E63 AMG S wagon built by the team at AMG that belives you shouldn’t have to choose between a family wagon and a twin-turbo V8. The E63 AMG S uses a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 that produces over 600 horsepower. Power is routed through an AMG tuned 9-speed automatic and 4-Matic all-wheel-drive system.

The M5 Competition is the only sedan in this drag race of wagon greats, but let’s imagine for a moment that BMW finally came to its senses and built the M5 wagon we’ve always dreamed of. The M5 Competition follows a similar formula using a 625 horsepower 4.4-liter twin-turbo V8 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that sends power through an all-wheel-drive setup. 

Finally, we have the Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo Turbo S E-Hybrid. This is Porsche’s clever way of saying they’ve built the most impressive hybrid performance wagon on earth. This 680 horsepower wagon uses a twin-turbo V8 that is augmented by electric motors. The results speak for themselves.

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