February 13, 2012

Perhaps They Should Have Tested More - Russian Space Agency

Not actually the Russian Mars Probe

The Russian Mars probe Phobos-Grunt launched on November 9th, 2011, was working immediately after launch.  But a command to start the engines wasn't successful. Instead, the spacecraft went into "safe mode" and was trapped in orbit until it splashed into the ocean two months later. copyrightjoestrazzere

After investigation, the Russian Federal Space Agency's conclusion was: Programming error.
  • $165 million mission
  • The main cause of the failure was a programming error.
  • Mission was halted by "a programming error which led to a simultaneous reboot of two working channels of an onboard computer,"
  • Reboot put the spacecraft in safe mode
  • Craft stranded in orbit several hundred miles above Earth
  • Phobos-Grunt crashed back to Earth on Jan. 15
  • "Cheap parts, design shortcomings, and lack of pre-flight testing ensured that the spacecraft would never fulfill its goals," - Former Planetary Society executive director Louis Friedman
  • "Might have been caught had they performed adequate component and system testing prior to flight." - Friedman

Perhaps Louis Friedman is right, and they should have tested more.

Also see:

This article originally appeared in my blog: All Things Quality
My name is Joe Strazzere and I'm currently a Director of Quality Assurance.
I like to lead, to test, and occasionally to write about leading and testing.
Find me at http://AllThingsQuality.com/.

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