Space Station:

NASA's Software Development Approach Increases Safety and Cost Risks

IMTEC-92-39: Published: Jun 19, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) development of computer software for its space station, to determine whether: (1) NASA is using independent verification and validation techniques to ensure that software meets specified requirements and functions; (2) NASA has incorporated software risk management techniques; (3) standards are in place that prescribe a disciplined, uniform approach to software development; and (4) software support tools will help.

GAO found that: (1) basic management control techniques for NASA and its contractors to build and maintain high quality software are not in place, which has increased safety and cost risks; (2) NASA has not implemented independent verification and validation of critical flight software and lacks a systematic risk management approach; (3) NASA has been slow to implement standards, and has reduced funding for support tools; and (4) NASA has not assessed all software development issues, and is approaching a juncture of critical milestones that will limit its influence on software development practices.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Due to a major redesign of the space station, software development issues, such as whether NASA plans to require independent verification and validation, need to be revisited.

    Recommendation: In order to reduce safety and cost risks, the Administrator, NASA, should direct space station officials to require independent verification and validation for critical space station software.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Due to a major redesign of the space station, software development issues, such as whether NASA plans to institute a risk management program, need to be revisited.

    Recommendation: In order to reduce safety and cost risks, the Administrator, NASA, should direct space station officials to institute a risk management program that identifies all key software risks and ensures that preventive measures are taken to minimize those risks.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Due to a major redesign of the space station, software development issues, such as implementing software standards and committing to a robust and uniform software development environment, need to be revisited.

    Recommendation: To ensure that space station software is developed in the most efficient manner, the Administrator, NASA, should direct space station officials to: (1) perform a comprehensive evaluation comparing short- and long-term costs of implementing a prescribed software development environment; and (2) proceed in a manner consistent with the results of this evaluation. Such an evaluation should determine whether implementing software standards and commiting to a robust and uniform software development environment will save money over the life of the program.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

 

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