NASA strengthens software approach
- By Paula Shaki Trimble
- May 16, 2000
The software and management problems that contributed to the loss of the
two Mars spacecraft in 1999 convinced NASA's chief information officer that
it was time to make changes.
Lee Holcomb briefed senior NASA managers last month on a plan to improve
NASA's software development and management. He hopes to raise the bar for
NASA's internally developed and purchased software with a four-part plan
that will be implemented quickly and aggressively. A business plan will
be delivered to Congress June 1.
"Research could do a lot to provide tools to improve the productivity of
building software," Holcomb said. "We face the same problem everyone faces the need for talent. We also have fallen in terms of Carnegie Mellon's
[software] Capability Maturity Model."
The CMM, developed by the federally funded Software Engineering Institute
at Carnegie Mellon University. It is a way to assess an organization's overall
software engineering practices, with a focus on documented, repeatable processes
that carry over from program to program
NASA will have technical guidelines and procedures for software development
in about two months, Holcomb said. During that same period, the agency will
use a more vigorous independent verification and validation program. Holcomb
expects to see a measured improvement in six months by avoiding a mission
Overall, he plans to improve the process NASA and its contractors use to
develop software for space missions. The civil servant work force will be
well versed in managing software development, and software vendors will
be expected to achieve CMM Level 3 or higher.
More than 90 percent of NASA's IT investment is outsourced, he said.