New NASA launch control software late, millions over budget

March 28, 2016 by Marcia Dunn
New NASA launch control software late, millions over budget
In this Sept. 11, 2014 photo, NASA's Orion spacecraft, preparing for it's first flight, departs the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building on its way to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. NASA's own inspector general said Monday, March 28, 2016, that Launch control software under development for NASA's deep-space exploration program is more than a year behind schedule and tens of millions of dollars over budget. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Launch control software under development for NASA's deep-space exploration program is more than a year behind schedule and tens of millions of dollars above projected costs, according to an internal audit released Monday.

NASA's own conducted the audit at Florida's Kennedy Space Center, where the agency hopes to launch its next-generation rocket on a test flight in 2018.

The goal is to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, using this supersize Space Launch System, or SLS, rocket and an Orion capsule. The 2018 SLS premiere will include an unmanned Orion; the first Orion with a crew should launch five years later.

NASA has agreed to an independent review once software is delivered for the 2018 test flight. In the meantime, officials said they have instituted improvements. Inspector General Paul Martin deems that satisfactory and considers the matter resolved.

Software needed to support SLS and Orion is experiencing the same startup trouble as previous command and programs, the audit found. Development of this new control software is now projected to exceed $207 million, 77 percent above 2012 projections.

The software won't be ready until fall 2017, instead of this summer as planned, and important capabilities like automatic failure detection, are being deferred, the audit noted. The system is vital, needed to control pumps, motors, valves and other ground equipment during countdowns and launches, and to monitor data before and during liftoff.

NASA decided to write its own computer code to "glue together" existing software products a decade ago—while space shuttles still were flying and commercial shippers had yet to service the space station. Both delivery companies, SpaceX and Orbital ATK, rely on commercial software, the audit noted.

Commercial software products would be a better option for NASA as well, according to the audit, especially given recent advances in the area.

The ground systems development and operations program's "reluctance to change course reflects a cultural legacy at NASA of over-optimism and over-promising what the agency can achieve in a specific timeframe," the report stated.

A successful Orion orbital , in 2014, used United Launch Alliance's unmanned Delta IV rocket.

Explore further: NASA pushes first flight of Orion spacecraft with crew to 2023

More information: NASA: www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/sls/index.html

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Neutron-star merger yields new puzzle for astrophysicists

January 18, 2018

The afterglow from the distant neutron-star merger detected last August has continued to brighten - much to the surprise of astrophysicists studying the aftermath of the massive collision that took place about 138 million ...

New technique for finding life on Mars

January 18, 2018

Researchers demonstrate for the first time the potential of existing technology to directly detect and characterize life on Mars and other planets. The study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, used miniaturized scientific ...

North, east, south, west: The many faces of Abell 1758

January 18, 2018

Resembling a swarm of flickering fireflies, this beautiful galaxy cluster glows intensely in the dark cosmos, accompanied by the myriad bright lights of foreground stars and swirling spiral galaxies. A1758N is a sub-cluster ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

wkingmilw
not rated yet Mar 29, 2016
I think its time for most of those coders to be rotated out. We have neither the time nor the money to hold the hands of a consistently ineffective and over-budget team.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.