Author Topic: Atlas V N22 - Starliner OFT (uncrewed) - 20 Dec 2019 (11:36 UTC) - DISCUSSION  (Read 243902 times)

Offline Rocket Science

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Would be interesting to see the CST-100 countdown checklist sequence that those on console are following when they are going through pre-launch polls for final go...
"The laws of physics are unforgiving"
~Rob: Physics instructor, Aviator

Offline yg1968

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Where is this discussion going? I kind of don’t understand the contract and OFT reflight topics.

Some people think that Boeing is required to re-fly OFT-1. I think (and likely others) that they don't have such an obligation. If you go to a restaurant and eat 85% of your meal and then tell the waiter that is not what you had ordered, chances are that the restaurant will not give you a free meal because of their mistake. They will give you a coupon or a free dessert but not a free meal since you already ate 85% of the meal. 

Incidentally, this may be different if this had been an operational crewed flight. I am not sure if NASA would be willing to pay for Boeing getting half way to the ISS (in such a case, depending on the contract, there may be an obligation of result). For CRS2, providers were required to get insurance (for the loss of the payload in case of an accident), I don't know if insurance is required for CCtCap as well. The answer is likely in the contracts themselves which can be found at the links below.

SpaceX's agreement:
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/NNK14MA74C-SpaceX-CCtCap-Contract.pdf

Boeing's contract:
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/CCtCap_Boeing_508.pdf

I have looked at the Boeing contract. Here are some of the relevant parts:

Quote from: p. 251 of the PDF
The Contractor shall satisfy at least one of the following decision criteria when determining flight test objectives:

a) Ground testing is not sufficient to adequately test the objective
b) Significant risk exists after all ground testing and analysis is complete
c) Flight test is the only method to achieve validation of the objective

The Contractor’s flight test program shall include an uncrewed orbital flight test to the ISS. The OFT shall include a CCTS [Commercial Crew Transportation System] that validates end-to-end connectivity, LV and CST-100 integration, launch and flight operations, automated rendezvous and proximity operations, and docking with the ISS, assuming ISS approval [...]

The Contractor’s flight test program shall include a crewed flight test to the ISS. The crewed flight test shall include a NASA crew that docks with the ISS, remains docked for a sufficient duration to check-out ISS interfaces, and then return to a supported landing site (J-01 1120 5.3).

Quote from: p. 235 of the PDF
3.2.1.2.5 Operations Readiness Review (ORR) [Mandatory Government Interim Milestone]

Upon successful completion of the flight test phase of crewed flights, an Operational Readiness Review shall be conducted and deliver the data described in DRD 105, Operations Readiness Review (ORR) Data Package, in support of the ORR.

Quote from: p. 359 of the PDF
An ORR occurs upon successful completion of the crewed test flight to International Space Station (ISS). Upon meeting the ORR Acceptance Criteria defined below, NASA will accept operations readiness of the system for Post Certification Missions (PCMs). (Att J-03 PWS Apx A)

The Contractor has completed the following and provided to NASA:

f) Documentation providing evidence that failures and anomalies have been resolved and the results incorporated.

Quote from: p. 186 of the PDF
The flight test plan shall include the following information:
-Test Objectives
-Success Criteria

Unfortunately, the flight test plan for OFT is not in the contract.

The paragraphs below are only relevant for post-certification missions (PCM) but are interesting, nevertheless, as they specifically mention docking as one of the criteria that is relevant in determining if success is achieved:

Quote from: p. 56 of the PDF
H.21 POST CERTIFICATION MISSION SUCCESS DETERMINATION

(a) Mission Success Criteria

(1) The Mission Success criteria will be defined on a per mission basis and agreed to by NASA and the Contractor during the Task Ordering process.

(2) NASA will provide the initial mission success criteria and specific percentages of the final payment earned for mission performance during the Task Ordering process. The final payment is defined in clause H.19, Post Certification Mission Payments, Milestones and ATP Criteria. Any revision to the criteria and payment percentage shall be agreed to at the Mission Certification Review (MCR). In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, the Contracting Officer will establish the criteria and payment percentage by the Flight Readiness Review. The revised criteria will be incorporated into a Task Order revision. The MCR shall include Contractor plans for providing data to confirm mission success as part of the post flight report.

(3) Mission Success Criteria will be established per the following guidelines:
(i) Criteria will consider the Contractor’s mission capabilities.
(ii) Criteria will consider the Contractor’s performance, independent of NASA’s.
(iii) Criteria will consider ascent aborts or earlier than pre-launch planned End-Of-Mission timeframe, contingency spacecraft crew support, and inability to dock with the ISS.

(4) Definitions.
(i) Full Mission Success - meeting all primary objectives and secondary objectives;
(ii) Mission Failure – loss of one or more primary objectives, serious injury or fatality as defined in H.26, Mishap Reporting, or damage to the ISS;
(iii) Partial mission success – all primary mission objectives satisfied but loss of one or more secondary mission objectives.

(b) Mission Success Determination

(1) Mission Success Determination will be made using the mission success criteria and the corresponding data and parameters that are jointly agreed to by NASA and the Contractor. [...]

(c) Procedures

(1) The Contracting Officer determines unilaterally whether a mission is considered a Mission Success, Partial Mission Success, or a Failed Mission. For partial mission success, the percentage of the final payment earned is based on the agreed to mission success criteria defined in section (a)(2) of this clause. Within fifteen (15) calendar days from receipt of the preliminary DRD 209 Post-Flight Assessment Report, the Contracting Officer will either make the Mission Success determination or inform the Contractor of NASA’s intent to partially withhold final payment in the event of Partial Mission success, or withhold final payment in the event of a Failed Mission. In the event of a failed mission determination, an additional 15% of the Post Certification Mission (PCM) price shall be applied as a credit to another PCM, other in-kind considerations determined by the parties, or be returned to the Government if it cannot be applied to a subsequent PCM at the Government’s discretion. [...] For all other activities under the contract not part of this PCM task order, the Government reserves the right to terminate the contract for default in accordance with FAR 52.249-8 Default (Fixed-Price Supply and Service).
« Last Edit: 12/24/2019 03:13 pm by yg1968 »

Offline Rondaz

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Additional editing to my Atlas V N22 and @BoeingSpace #Starliner long exposure shot taken from KSC Press Site, layering in a shot taken moments prior to capture the colors of the morning sky.

https://twitter.com/NASA_Nerd/status/1209310542239805441

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Offline clongton

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<snip>
The Contractor’s flight test program shall include an uncrewed orbital flight test to the ISS. The OFT shall include a CCTS that validates end-to-end connectivity, LV and CST-100 integration, launch and flight operations, automated rendezvous and proximity operations, and docking with the ISS, assuming ISS approval [...]
</snip>

(4) Definitions.
(i) Full Mission Success - meeting all primary objectives and secondary objectives;
(ii) Mission Failure – loss of one or more primary objectives, serious injury or fatality as defined in H.26, Mishap Reporting, or damage to the ISS;
(iii) Partial mission success – all primary mission objectives satisfied but loss of one or more secondary mission objectives.

Here's what I see here:
1. One Primary objective is LV and CST-100 integration
2. One Primary objective is automated rendezvous and proximity operations, and docking with the ISS.

Per (4) Definitions, [Full Mission Success/Mission Failure/Partial Mission Success]
Objective 1 [LV & Spacecraft Integration]: Mission Failure. The spacecraft attempted to extract MET from the LV and failed to do so, extracting instead unrelated data which left the spacecraft unable to properly communicate with the TDRS system. Communications are critical, and the failure to be able to do that led directly to the next failure.

Objective 2 [Automated rendezvous, proximity operations, and docking with the ISS]: Mission Failure. Because of the failure of objective 1, the spacecraft was not able to execute the planned OIB and therefore unable to even attempt objective 2.

Per the listed mission objectives and the success/fail criteria defined in the contract, OFT can only be defined as a Mission Failure. All emotional reaction and pontificating aside, when it comes down to the black and white of the inked and signed contract, OFT was a Mission Failure by definition. OFT only had to fail to accomplish just 1 of its many Primary Objectives to become so classed - per contract language. It failed 2.

Now, what happens next? There really are only 2 choices.
1. Refly OFT and successfully accomplish ALL of the primary objectives.
2. Adjudicate objective failure #1, as well as any other unpublished failures, and move on to the CFT.

It is my belief that option 2 will be the action taken for 2 reasons.
1. Although the OFT mission objectives are clearly stated in the contract, as yg1968 stated, the flight test plan for OFT is not.
2. I have also read through the contract and as far as I can see there is no hold on the CFT if the OFT fails. In other words Full Mission Success of OFT is not a precondition to flying the CFT.

Because they have stated that they know the root cause of the MET failure and because the spacecraft performed nominally during the 2 days in orbit and then executed a precision EDL, I believe Boeing and NASA will press ahead with the planned CFT. They may very well be right, but personally I believe that is a mistake. I'm not too concerned with the docking because Starliner and Dragon use the same mechanism, designed and built by Boeing. Dragon demonstrated last March that the system functions as intended at the station and Starliner put its  mechanisms thru its paces during OFT, although not at the station. My concern is the failure of objective 1 above, LV and spacecraft integration. This goes directly to the heart of "can the Starliner flight avionics be trusted? Are there any other failure modes lurking anywhere in the code, just waiting to be revealed at the wrong time?"

THAT would be my primary concern, not docking. I'm concerned by the avionics software. I've seen software go sideways before. It always performs perfectly - until it doesn't. Then it goes off the deep end. The one thing I know for sure, in spite of everything else that went right with this mission, is that by contract definition OFT was a Mission Failure. That is defined in contract language. If they are going to go straight to CFT, I think they should do a proper WDR using the actual Atlas LV, not a simulated one. I would like to see NASA actually sign off SPECIFICALLY on the LV integration capability AFTER the WDR. That is the only thing that would make me feel better about the CFT prior to launch.
« Last Edit: 12/24/2019 06:17 pm by clongton »
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Offline Vettedrmr

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Here's what I see here:
1. One Primary objective is LV and CST-100 integration
2. One Primary objective is automated rendezvous and proximity operations, and docking with the ISS.

Chuck,

I expect there are several more primary objectives, related to life support, EDL, etc. that were satisfied by OFT.

And, I'm guessing that the primary objectives you laid out are your guesses.  Probably good guesses, but not published objectives.  Love to see published ones if they're available.

I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.  I call BS on that.  They may know the symptom (wrong value used for MET), but *why* I don't see how that's possible yet.  I also have serious concerns about Starliner's software integration, and I bet behind closed doors the flight crews are way more concerned than we are!
Aviation/space enthusiast, retired control system SW engineer, doesn't know anything!

Offline JonathanD

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I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.

Perhaps I missed it, but I don't remember them saying they knew the root cause at this time.  They knew the immediate cause (wrong time in MET) but that is different than a root cause investigation, along with investigating some of the other...interesting...resulting event, like RCS thrusters firing beyond specifications.

Offline freddo411

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... snip

Now, what happens next? There really are only 2 choices.
1. Refly OFT and successfully accomplish ALL of the primary objectives.
2. Adjudicate objective failure #1, as well as any other unpublished failures, and move on to the CFT.

It is my belief that option 2 will be the action taken for 2 reasons.
1. Although the OFT mission objectives are clearly stated in the contract, as yg1968 stated, the flight test plan for OFT is not.
2. I have also read through the contract and as far as I can see there is no hold on the CFT if the OFT fails. In other words Full Mission Success of OFT is not a precondition to flying the CFT.

... snip


This makes sense in some contexts.   Clearly starliner is in a development state.    Boeing is working out the bugs.    Flying the next mission with crew is still a test mission.   

I've been vocal about NASA slowing down SX's efforts to fly it's capsule.   I think the proper response to both the Boeing and SX program is to address any issues, and fly again. 

Boeing's second flight will be risky.   Less risky than the first flight, but more risky than the 3rd, 4th or 5th.   Including a test crew isn't unreasonable.

Offline OM72

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I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.  I call BS on that.  They may know the symptom (wrong value used for MET), but *why* I don't see how that's possible yet.  I also have serious concerns about Starliner's software integration, and I bet behind closed doors the flight crews are way more concerned than we are!

You would be wrong on all of this. 

Offline launchwatcher

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I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.

Perhaps I missed it, but I don't remember them saying they knew the root cause at this time.  They knew the immediate cause (wrong time in MET) but that is different than a root cause investigation, along with investigating some of the other...interesting...resulting event, like RCS thrusters firing beyond specifications.

Here's what they said on Saturday:
Quote
Our best understanding 24 hours later now—or maybe more—is our spacecraft
needs to reach down into the Atlas V and figure out what time it is. Where is the Atlas V in its
mission profile? And then we set the clock based on that. Somehow we reached in there and
grabbed the wrong spot. This doesn't look like an Atlas problem. This looks like a "we reached
in and grabbed the wrong coefficient." More to learn that, but that's—it's not more
complicated than that. And we started the clock at the wrong time.
This is on page 3 of: https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/20191221_nasa_boeing_oft_teleconference.pdf

They know the MET was wrong and it sounds like they know why the MET clock was wrong (code erroneously grabbed wrong parameter from Atlas -- likely grabbed boot time instead of launch time).

In the dig for the root cause I think they've hit bottom in the hardware and software and now have to go looking at people things: software development & testing processes to investigate how the error was made and why it went undetected and the higher-level design decisions around the interface between spacecraft and launch vehicle.

The Atlas-to-Starliner data link over which the erroneous data was transmitted is new, apparently never used with another spacecraft.  That waves a big red flag for me.   Clearly they need to take another look at the decision to rely on this datalink to set the spacecraft MET clock instead of the simple break-wire interface that every other spacecraft apparently uses.   And if they keep digging, ultimate blame could end up on including some combination of lack of maturity in that system, inadequate specification, and inadequate test environment support provided by the launch vehicle provider.


Online TrevorMonty

....Further expect, if that happens, that the other CC contractor will cry foul - and rightly so. If NASA does it anyway, expect that contractor to initiate some level of legal action, just on general principles. Nothing will come of that but that contractor will make internal decisions to further divorce its own developing HSF program further and further from NASA, as it is currently doing with its under development heavy lifter and spacecraft. Happy to continue its existing, and profitable relationship with NASA, it will publicly grin and bear it, but privately relations will chill considerably. In their eyes, if not done already, NASA will have publicly labeled itself as an unreliable and biased partner, best left to its own devices.

Well said.  Perhaps in lieu of a legal challenge,  that other CC contractor would further its interests more by offering a second launch of Starliner on a fairly priced re-used booster.  Last I recall, Starliner is compatible with Falcon 9.  That would never happen, but it would send an interesting message if framed as a fellow CC team member helping out a competitor meet their contractual obligations while minimizing the cost of complying with the terms of their (Boeing's)  CC contract.

Emphasis mine.

I suggest folks at this forum stop believing the felgercarb that Boeing has been uttering about Starliner being "launch vehicle agnostic".

Starliner, as built now, is NOT launch-vehicle agnostic. The only launch vehicle capable of successfully putting Starliner in orbit (pardon me: in a sub-orbital trajectory) is Atlas V. Courtesy of the Starliner software suite being married to the Atlas V EDS (amongst others).

And I have that straight from industry sources.
Boeing and ULA must have plan to move Starliner to Vulcan at some stage. I'm guessing after Vulcan has proven itself eg 5-10 flights.

The crew vehicles don't need to be LV agnostic as there is alternative crew vehicle + LV combination. Both crew vehicles support 6-7 seats so other vehicle can take up slack from cancelled flight.

Offline meekGee

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I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.  I call BS on that.  They may know the symptom (wrong value used for MET), but *why* I don't see how that's possible yet.  I also have serious concerns about Starliner's software integration, and I bet behind closed doors the flight crews are way more concerned than we are!

You would be wrong on all of this.
OM, you are representing the more confident side in this debate.

How do you view IFA?  How can it be argued that IFA isn't necessary based on ground simulation/analysis after exactly the same type of work failed in the case of a regular flight?
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Offline clongton

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Here's what I see here:
1. One Primary objective is LV and CST-100 integration
2. One Primary objective is automated rendezvous and proximity operations, and docking with the ISS.

Chuck,

I expect there are several more primary objectives, related to life support, EDL, etc. that were satisfied by OFT.
And, I'm guessing that the primary objectives you laid out are your guesses.  Probably good guesses, but not published objectives.  Love to see published ones if they're available.

Yes, there were additional primary objectives, but I only highlighted the 2 that have been the subjects of this particular discussion.

I actually quoted from the contract between Boeing and NASA. yg1968 had supplied them a couple of posts above mine, and I incorporated what he supplied in my post. They are direct quotes from the contract that Boeing signed with NASA. FYI, I will repeat them here. Note that the quote includes the page that the requirements come from.

Like yg1968, I have also read the contract in its entirety. His comments were spot on. There is no good substitute for taking the time to sit with a warm cup of tea in a comfortable chair and actually read the whole thing. It's very enlightening. For me it softened my previous retoric a little as well as increased my suspicions wrt the quality of the avionics software that Boeing produced in house. It's pretty big, 456 pages, but well worth wading thru it all.  It is "document" page 251 of 456, but to help you find it, it's in Attachment J-03 - Contract Performance Work Statement, on p36 of 86.

Boeing's contract:
https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/CCtCap_Boeing_508.pdf
Quote from: p. 251 of the PDF

The Contractor shall satisfy at least one of the following decision criteria when determining flight test objectives:

a) Ground testing is not sufficient to adequately test the objective
b) Significant risk exists after all ground testing and analysis is complete
c) Flight test is the only method to achieve validation of the objective

The Contractor’s flight test program shall include an uncrewed orbital flight test to the ISS. The OFT shall include a CCTS [Commercial Crew Transportation System] that validates end-to-end connectivity, LV and CST-100 integration, launch and flight operations, automated rendezvous and proximity operations, and docking with the ISS, assuming ISS approval [...]
« Last Edit: 12/24/2019 06:12 pm by clongton »
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Offline OM72

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I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.  I call BS on that.  They may know the symptom (wrong value used for MET), but *why* I don't see how that's possible yet.  I also have serious concerns about Starliner's software integration, and I bet behind closed doors the flight crews are way more concerned than we are!

You would be wrong on all of this.
OM, you are representing the more confident side in this debate.

How do you view IFA?  How can it be argued that IFA isn't necessary based on ground simulation/analysis after exactly the same type of work failed in the case of a regular flight?

I'm representing the engineering side with practical and real experience.  Call that confidence if you will. 

An IFA is not necessary for the reasons that have been expounded on here a number of times.  NASA never levied any of that and it was up to the providers to propose their integrated test plans.  Neither approach is superior and neither is inferior and both have pros/cons. 

With respect to the Boeing approach, it validated that one design reference.  The sequencer essentially operates the same in any case. 

Offline Lee Jay

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I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.  I call BS on that.  They may know the symptom (wrong value used for MET), but *why* I don't see how that's possible yet.

I have personally found root cause on bugs of this type in minutes after a failure, on systems which I designed and engineered, and which had similar complexities (interfacing with different systems, multiple sources of data, etc.).

Finding the root cause as to why the bug wasn't found during ground testing would take longer, but not too long.

The hard one is finding all the other bugs that weren't found during ground testing and that didn't manifest on this flight.

Offline JonathanD

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Finding the root cause as to why the bug wasn't found during ground testing would take longer, but not too long.

That's the number one thing I'm interested in hearing about, I hope we get the details, could make for a fascinating case study.

Secondly I'd like to hear about the apparently-somewhat-frantic performance of the RCS system following the original problem.  Did it behave as expected, were thresholds exceeded that should not have been, and if so why, etc.

Offline meekGee

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I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.  I call BS on that.  They may know the symptom (wrong value used for MET), but *why* I don't see how that's possible yet.  I also have serious concerns about Starliner's software integration, and I bet behind closed doors the flight crews are way more concerned than we are!

You would be wrong on all of this.
OM, you are representing the more confident side in this debate.

How do you view IFA?  How can it be argued that IFA isn't necessary based on ground simulation/analysis after exactly the same type of work failed in the case of a regular flight?

I'm representing the engineering side with practical and real experience.  Call that confidence if you will. 

An IFA is not necessary for the reasons that have been expounded on here a number of times.  NASA never levied any of that and it was up to the providers to propose their integrated test plans.  Neither approach is superior and neither is inferior and both have pros/cons. 

With respect to the Boeing approach, it validated that one design reference.  The sequencer essentially operates the same in any case.
Who requested what is a contractual matter, not technical...

The reasons iterated b4 were simply that griund analysis was sufficient.

What we saw this week is that despite ground analysis, the startup sequence failed - luckily with benign results.

How do we know that there aren't other issues with the IFA startup sequence?  It clearly has to be a different mechanism, since for example it doesn't pull any timing information from the Atlas..

But I bet it does rely on barometric data, amd maybe these instruments need to be calibrated, maybe prior to launch...

In light of last week - how can we have confidence in the ground based simulations?

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Offline meekGee

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I know "they" have stated that they know the root cause.  I call BS on that.  They may know the symptom (wrong value used for MET), but *why* I don't see how that's possible yet.

I have personally found root cause on bugs of this type in minutes after a failure, on systems which I designed and engineered, and which had similar complexities (interfacing with different systems, multiple sources of data, etc.).

Finding the root cause as to why the bug wasn't found during ground testing would take longer, but not too long.

The hard one is finding all the other bugs that weren't found during ground testing and that didn't manifest on this flight.
A few years ago, Virgin was adamant that they found the root cause and that it was pilot error..  The NTSB disagreed, saying pilot error was basically an expected outcome of the system design.

The reason I'm focusing on the IFA is that it indicates to me a reluctance to test properly.  An IFA is a very large item to skip just based on confidence in your development processes - even if Boeing talked NASA into it.

I think it's a bigger open item than whether OFT-2 is necessary or not.
« Last Edit: 12/24/2019 07:42 pm by meekGee »
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Offline abaddon

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An IFA is a very large item to skip just based on confidence in your development processes - even if Boeing talked NASA into it.
I've been skeptical of the choice to fully simulate in-flight abort from the beginning, and yeah, this mishap absolutely reinforces that opinion.  On the other hand, stating Boeing "talked NASA into it" is not supported by the facts.  NASA did not require it, it's NASA's responsibility to require it and they chose not to.  In the unlikely event something tragic happens with an in-flight abort scenario on the Starliner, I won't blame Boeing, I'll blame NASA.  Because it's their job to set the requirements and they didn't require it, they signed off on simulating it instead.
Quote
I think it's a bigger open item than whether OFT-2 is necessary or not.
Agreed.

Offline meekGee

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An IFA is a very large item to skip just based on confidence in your development processes - even if Boeing talked NASA into it.
I've been skeptical of the choice to fully simulate in-flight abort from the beginning, and yeah, this mishap absolutely reinforces that opinion.  On the other hand, stating Boeing "talked NASA into it" is not supported by the facts.  NASA did not require it, it's NASA's responsibility to require it and they chose not to.  In the unlikely event something tragic happens with an in-flight abort scenario on the Starliner, I won't blame Boeing, I'll blame NASA.  Because it's their job to set the requirements and they didn't require it, they signed off on simulating it instead.
Quote
I think it's a bigger open item than whether OFT-2 is necessary or not.
Agreed.
Yeah, that was loose, hence the "even if".  Who talked whom is contractual..  I am focusing on the actual call, which even at the time raised eyebrows and discussed a lot.

To quote recent words: "This is why we test".
« Last Edit: 12/24/2019 08:09 pm by meekGee »
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