The Role of Software in Spacecraft Accidents

Provided by: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Topic: Software
Format: PDF
The first and most important step in solving any problem is understanding the problem well enough to create effective solutions. To this end, several software-related spacecraft accidents were studied to determine common systemic factors. Although the details in each accident were different, very similar factors related to flaws in the safety culture, the management and organization, and technical deficiencies were identified. This paper has described common factors noted in the accident reports for five recent softwarerelated spacecraft losses: Ariane 501, Mars Climate Orbiter, Mars Polar Lander, Titan IV B-32, and SOHO communications. Some suggestions to avoid these problems were provided throughout the paper, although a comprehensive discussion of how to solve these very complex problems is beyond its scope.

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