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Boeing's uncrewed Starliner back on Earth after flight. Photo: NASA

A December flight test of Boeing's Starliner may have ended in the loss of the uncrewed spacecraft if major software problems weren't caught during the mission, NASA said Friday.

Why it matters: Boeing is expected to start flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station on Starliner this year, but the test flight issues could push back Boeing's first crewed flight.

Details: The uncrewed Starliner was expected to dock with the space station after its launch on Dec. 20, but a software issue involving a timer onboard the craft prevented the two from connecting, forcing Starliner to come back to Earth days early, on Dec. 22.

  • In addition to the timer problem, a NASA and Boeing investigation team found another software issue corrected during the mission could have caused a major malfunction during the test flight had it not been caught.
  • "The team found the two critical software defects were not detected ahead of flight despite multiple safeguards," NASA said in a statement. "Ground intervention prevented loss of vehicle in both cases."

The intrigue: NASA is also going to perform a safety assessment focused on Boeing's Starliner work and management.

  • "The comprehensive safety review will include individual employee interviews with a sampling from a cross section of personnel, including senior managers, mid-level management and supervision, and engineers and technicians at multiple sites," NASA said.

What's to watch: NASA and Boeing are expected to complete their investigation by the end of the month.

  • The agency will also decide whether Boeing will need to re-do an uncrewed test before flying astronauts for the first time.

Go deeper: Boeing's Starliner lands back on Earth after troubled mission

Go deeper

Virginia governor orders probe into pepper-spraying of Army officer

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam at the Governor's Mansion in Richmond, Va. in 2019. Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Sunday he's ordered the state police to conduct an independent investigation into a traffic stop during which two officers pepper-sprayed and drew guns on an Army lieutenant.

Driving the news: Caron Nazario, who is Black and Latino, is suing the police officers over the incident, which attracted widespread criticism after video footage emerged. Northam said in a statement he found the incident "disturbing" and that it angered him.

Biden pollster urges blunt tax talk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The top pollster for Joe Biden's presidential campaign is advising the White House to do something that often makes Democrats nervous: Talk loudly and proudly about raising taxes on the rich.

Why it matters: John Anzalone tells Axios his extensive polling and research has found that few issues receive broader support than raising taxes on corporations and people earning more than $400,000 a year.

On the front lines of the growing border crisis

A migrant mother and her children sit in the dirt at a temporary processing center under the Anzalduas International Bridge in McAllen, Texas. Photo: Stef Kight/Axios

At night, parents with young children march through the brush after crossing the Rio Grande River in the pitch black. By day, unaccompanied kids arrive at shelters, in one instance 17 of 17 testing positive for COVID-19.

Driving the news: Axios accompanied a delegation of Republican lawmakers to South Texas last week — followed by a unilateral visit to El Paso — to see in real-time the challenges fueled by a border surge, the effects of actions taken by the previous administration, and the lagging response by the new one.

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