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



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.

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


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.

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


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 Galaxy Z Flip 4, Galaxy Z Fold 4 receive 50,000 bookings in just 12 hours! – HT Tech



Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 have received 50,000 bookings in a mere 12 hours. Here is what the company informs.

The recently launched Samsung premium smartphones, Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4, have garnered more than 50,000 pre- bookings in less than 12 hours, the company informed. The information was provided by Raju Pullan, Senior Vice President and Head of MX sales at Samsung India. The record figures came on Day 1 of the pre-booking opening for foldables on August 16, according to a report by IANS.

“Samsung is targeting to sell 1.5 times more foldable phones this year. We are confident of meeting our target because the new foldable phones come with huge upgrades as compared to last year,” Pullan told IANS. Meanwhile, according to a report by PTI, Samsung also feels the ongoing worries on inflation are unlikely to dent the demand for mobile phones in India, adding that it sees a healthy double-digit growth in volumes this year.

Aditya Babbar, Samsung’s head of product marketing said, “All our internal estimates show that the market will grow at a healthy number and we will outpace at 2x.” In the premium category alone, it is looking at a 1.5-times growth in sales over the last year, he added.

It can be known that Samsung has launched a total of 16 devices across various customer segments this year with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 4 being the latest. According to a report by PTI, the newly-launched phones in the premium segment will be stocked in 10,000 stores and will be available at 12,000 points to aid the overall sales.

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 Price

Priced at Rs. 89,999 for the 8GB+128GB variant and Rs. 94,999 for the 8GB+256GB variant, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4 is available in several colour options including Bora Purple, Graphite, and Pink Gold colours.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Price

Priced at Rs. 1,54,999 for the 12GB+256GB variant and Rs. 1,64,999 for the 12GB+512GB variant, the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is available in Graygreen, Beige and Phantom Black colours.

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Apple iPhone 14, iPhone 14 Pro Surprise Early Release Leaked In New Report – Forbes



The next Apple special event is just days away, if the latest report is correct, and will take place on Wednesday, September 7.

That’s according to Mark Gurman at Bloomberg, who has just reported the date he believes is correct. To be fair, he wasn’t the first to predict this date. Last week, Max Weinbach floated the idea that the event would be on September 7, not September 13 as had been previously mooted. This meant that the likely release date for the next iPhones, not to mention a range of three Apple Watch models and perhaps the next AirPods Pro, could also be brought forward.

The possibility that the event could take place in the week commencing September 5 had been discounted, because the release is routinely a week later. And anyway, Monday, September 5 is a holiday, so flying in staff and press from around the world on a holiday for an event on Tuesday, September 6, seemed unlikely.

Unless, that is, the event is virtual rather than in person. Gurman believes the event is being recorded, so a virtual event is likely.

Moving the event date (virtual or in-person) to a Wednesday, though not unprecedented, is unusual. But holding an in-person event on Wednesday, September 7 would solve the problem of relocating staff and guests on a public holiday.

But a virtual event? I get the thinking behind this, and after all, Apple is very cautious about how it holds its events when Covid is not that far in the rearview mirror.

Even so, I think Gurman is wrong when he says, “The company intends to stream the event online — rather than holding an in-person gathering — continuing an approach it adopted at the start of the pandemic.”

In June, Apple staged a highly successful hybrid event, with a pre-recorded keynote played out on a huge video screen in Apple Park to hundreds of developers, selected guests, and press.

If that was possible then, why not hold a hybrid event now with a smaller guest list, as no devs would be likely to be invited?

That event began with a live appearance from Tim Cook and Craig Federighi introducing the keynote broadcast and it worked well. My guess, and it’s no more than that, is that this is the format that Apple will follow this September when it announces its new iPhones and more.

Of course, we won’t know until invites go out, and until the second they do, Apple can instead opt for a virtual-only event, something I think it would only consider if there’s a sudden spike in Covid transmissions in California. If that happens, then it has its pre-recorded keynote up its sleeve.

So, what does all this mean?

Whether the event is live or virtual, assuming it happens on Wednesday, September 7 at 10AM Pacific, then the shiny new iPhones, Apple Watches and AirPods Pro will go on sale on Friday, September 16, I believe.

Stay tuned for more details as they emerge.

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Oppo's ColorOS 13 update has a built-in pixelation feature for message screenshots – The Verge



Oppo is launching its ColorOS 13 update today, and has detailed the features that are on the way for its devices as they’re upgraded to its flavor of Android 13. Oppo — which like Vivo, OnePlus, and other Chinese brands is controlled by the tech giant BBK Electronics — says the update will be arriving first on the Find X5 and Find X5 Pro this month, ahead of its release on around 33 additional models in the Find, Reno, A, F, and K ranges before the end of the year.

One of the smaller features worth calling out is a neat pixelation feature that’ll be available for screenshots in WhatsApp and Messenger chats. A new “Pixelate” option appears in the editing window, which can be tapped to automatically blur out the contact’s name and profile picture (as shown in the animation above). You can also use the tool to manually blur out the contents of messages. It could be a helpful little feature if you want to quickly share a message exchange without revealing every detail.

As you’d expect, ColorOS 13 includes many of the standard features that Google has built into this year’s Android update such as enhanced privacy settings or the ability to mirror Google Messages on a paired Chromebook. There are also some obvious similarities with Oppo sub-brand OnePlus’ recently announced OxygenOS 13 update, which runs on the same underlying codebase as ColorOS. The two updates share the same always-on display widget designs, including one for Spotify with built-in playback controls, as well as similar design tweaks that include home screen widgets and resizable folders.

But there are also some new features for ColorOS 13 that have yet to be announced for OxygenOS. For example, Oppo has announced a new “Multi-Screen Connect” screen-mirroring feature which will allow up to three windows from a phone to be displayed on a connected Windows PC. That includes two background apps alongside one direct mirror of a phone’s display. The connectivity also simplifies the transfer of files between a smartphone and Windows, according to Oppo’s announcement.

Another small-yet-potentially-handy feature is something Oppo is calling “Meeting Assistant,” which is designed to improve the reliability of calls made via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet by prioritizing their traffic data over other apps. It also reduces the size of incoming notifications in an attempt to make them less distracting while on a call.

Under the hood upgrades claimed for ColorOS 13 include the debut of what Oppo is calling the “Dynamic Computing Engine,” which it says will increase battery life and allow more apps to be kept open in the background.

The launch of ColorOS 13 comes just days after the official release of Android 13 for Pixel devices, making Oppo one of the first third-party Android manufacturers to start rolling out the latest version of Google’s operating system. Check out Oppo’s graphic below to see its projected timeline for the update to be available across its range of handsets.

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