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- Until recently, NASA did not consider allowing computers total control of flight systems. Human operators, via hardware, have constituted the ultimate safety control. In an attempt to reduce costs, NASA has come to rely more and more heavily on computers and software to control space missions. (For example. software is now planned to control most of the operational functions of the International Space Station.) Thus the need for systematic software safety programs has become crucial for mission success. Concurrent engineering principles dictate that safety should be designed into software up front, not tested into the software after the fact. 'Cost of Quality' studies have statistics and metrics to prove the value of building quality and safety into the development cycle. Unfortunately, most software engineers are not familiar with designing for safety, and most safety engineers are not software experts. Software written to specifications which have not been safety analyzed is a major source of computer related accidents. Safer software is achieved step by step throughout the system and software life cycle. It is a process that includes requirements definition, hazard analyses, formal software inspections, safety analyses, testing, and maintenance. The greatest emphasis is placed on clearly and completely defining system and software requirements, including safety and reliability requirements. Unfortunately, development and review of requirements are the weakest link in the process. While some of the more academic methods, e.g. mathematical models, may help bring about safer software, this paper proposes the use of currently approved software methodologies, and sound software and assurance practices to show how, to a large degree, safety can be designed into software from the start. NASA's approach today is to first conduct a preliminary system hazard analysis (PHA) during the concept and planning phase of a project. This determines the overall hazard potential of the system to be built. Shortly thereafter, as the system requirements are being defined, the second iteration of hazard analyses takes place, the systems hazard analysis (SHA). During the systems requirements phase, decisions are made as to what functions of the system will be the responsibility of software. This is the most critical time to affect the safety of the software. From this point, software safety analyses as well as software engineering practices are the main focus for assuring safe software. While many of the steps proposed in this paper seem like just sound engineering practices, they are the best technical and most cost effective means to assure safe software within a safe system.
- NASA Technical Reports Server (NTRS) Collection.
- Document ID: 19940028526.
Accession ID: 94N33032.
Safety Through Quality Conference; 6-7 Jun. 1994; Old Windsor; United Kingdom.
- Copyright, Distribution as joint owner in the copyright.
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