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Report on the Boeing Starliner quality control review by the Independent Review Team

There have been concerns regarding the quality issues of a commercial crew spacecraft owned by Boeing, Starliner. That was reiterated during the meeting attended by the members of NASA’s independent safety panel. The main agenda of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel that was teleconferenced was the discussion of the CST-100 uncrewed flight held by Boeing back in December 2019. Since the Orbital Flight Test mission was not a success, there was a need to review the same.

There was an announcement of the completion of the review on July 7. As far as that flight was concerned, NASA had up to 80 recommendations. That was a combination of 61 recommendations raised by NASA and 19 more that were raised by an independent review team selected by both NASA and Boeing jointly.

All the recommendations to the Boeing Starliner among them those that revolved around software have to be not only completed but also approved in case there will be a second Orbit Flight Test mission. That’s what Don McErlean, who is a member of that panel, had to say about the meeting. He also added that NASA’s commercial crew software team would be part of the Starliner’s software development for additional insight as well as oversight. Additionally, adhering to the recommendations would see risks associated with Orbit Flight Test (OFT), Crew Flight Test as well as future actual commercial crew flights.

Once they do as per the recommendations, the Crew Flight Test (CFT) will take place, and the occupants will be three astronauts. One will be from Boeing and the other two from NASA. The panel also brought to the table the concerns that they have as far as the Starliner program is concerned. They acknowledged that the Boeing commercial control program has some quality problems. However, they also commended them for significant progress. They promised to keep track of it even during the next OFT as well as CFT.

A date for the second OFT mission had not been set. However, NASA speculated that there was a possibility of the same happening towards the end of the year. If that was to happen, the CFT was to take place next year during spring. However, the chair of the board, Patricia Sanders, didn’t buy that since she felt that Starliner had a long way to go before becoming a fully functioning and operational spacecraft.

According to Susan Helms, NASA’s exploration system development programs (ESD) had a lot to learn from the software development recommendations. She is also a member of the panel and was once an astronaut. Details regarding the way forward on specific efforts will be discussed in another panel meeting scheduled for a later date.

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