NASA engineers develop Space Launch System flight software with Boeing computers


HUNTSVILLE, Ala., 8 June 2012. NASA engineers working on the new Space Launch System (SLS) are starting to develop the advanced, heavy-lift launch vehicle's flight software using software test bed computers from Boeing.

"We are moving out very quickly on SLS," explains Todd May, Space Launch System Program manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. "SLS will be the most powerful launch vehicle ever built, and it requires the most capable flight software in the history of human spaceflight. Having this avionics hardware in place early will allow the NASA SLS team and Boeing to accelerate the flight software development."

With Boeing test bed computers, NASA engineers can to begin fine-tuning the launch vehicle's software, which will be installed in the Software Integration Test Facility at Marshall and tested with other electrical hardware and software. SLS team members will run simulations to evaluate how the vehicle will perform in space. The SLS will launch NASA's Orion spacecraft, providing new capability for human exploration beyond Earth's orbit, says a spokesperson.

The final SLS flight computer--being developed by upgrading existing systems used in Global Positioning System (GPS) and communication satellites--will run the flight software and have the highest processing capability available in a flight avionics computer, according to the spokesperson.

The first test flight of the SLS is scheduled for 2017, for which the launch vehicle will be configured for a 70-metric ton lift capacity. An evolved, two-stage launch vehicle configuration will provide a lift capability of 130 metric tons to enable missions beyond Earth's orbit and support deep space exploration.

The SLS software test bed computers were developed by The Boeing Company and delivered to Marshall ahead of schedule, providing more time for NASA programmers to develop the most capable flight software in the history of spaceflight.

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