GB Tech provides software verification and validation for NASA satellite

The Challenge

Northrop Grumman required software verification and validation (V&V) support to ensure flight software was properly functioning on the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX), the first satellite designed to detect the edge of the solar system.

The Solution

As part of the Northrop Grumman V&V lead team on the IBEX satellite program, GB Tech quickly and efficiently reviewed requirements, design documents, code and test artifacts to:

  • Assure the launch and deployment code would allow the IBEX spacecraft to reach its intended orbit;
  • The attitude control software would spin the spacecraft at required rates and orient the spacecraft to enable sensors to capture particles away from the sun;
  • The battery-charge regulating software would keep the spacecraft battery properly powered; and
  • Commands from the ground would be sent to the spacecraft and received, validated, and executed.

GB Tech was also tasked with payload code scrutiny, spacecraft flight software (FSW) code scrutiny, states and modes analysis, electrical power system (EPS), launch and deployment (ELD) analysis and fault detection and correction (FDC) analysis.

The Results

Using state-of-the-art code analysis tools and unified modeling techniques, GB Tech’s V&V team passed several findings to the customer. GB Tech discovered several issues with storing data outside the bounds of a defined array, which could have led to an unpredictable processor crashing. By identifying this problem in the early stages, GB Tech was able to help the IBEX satellite program reduce costs on software updates that could be made prior to testing.

Launched Oct. 19, 2008, aboard a Pegasus rocket, the IBEX satellite has been successfully mapping the sky for energetic nuclear atoms. Teams of international scientists have already discovered surprising new things about our solar system, some that don’t fit current theories, causing some scientists to formulate new paradigms about the solar system. Indications to date show the IBEX mission is on its way to being a huge success (more on the story at (