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NASA: Boeing software team had too much power over Starliner capsule

The Boeing Starliner spacecraft was returned to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for refurbishment. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
The Boeing Starliner spacecraft was returned to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for refurbishment. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

March 6 (UPI) -- Boeing's software team had too much influence over final decisions regarding the company's Starliner capsule, a top NASA administrator said Friday.

The finding was among 61 corrective actions NASA and Boeing have agreed to make before moving ahead with another Starliner mission. A test flight in December failed to reach the International Space Station, but landed successfully in New Mexico after two days in space.

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NASA has not decided if it will require another test flight before sending astronauts aloft.

"We had delegated too much authority to the software board to approve changes and to approve actions as it applied to software," said Douglas Loverro, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration. "Those changes should have been brought up to the overall engineering review board."

RELATED Boeing says longer Starliner software tests could have prevented flight failure

For example, software experts made a decision not to test all possible ways the software could respond to a given condition, Loverro said.

He also said Friday he had decided to formally classify the Boeing flight failure as a "high visibility close call," the lowest category NASA uses for serious mission problems.

Boeing and SpaceX are competing to become the first private company to fly astronauts on NASA missions. Boeing previously revealed that it had failed to detect problems with the capsule mission clock because it hadn't run full-length mission tests from launch to docking at the space station.

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The Starliner problems come as Boeing struggles to overcome serious safety issues with its Boeing 737 Max aircraft. Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch, said he wasn't aware of any issues in common between Starliner and 737 Max.

However, Chilton added that the lessons learned from Starliner "are being applied across our enterprise."

RELATED SpaceX's abort test succeeds, paving way for flight with astronauts

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