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4/6/2010
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NASA Seeks Software Assurance Firms

The space agency has about $500 million worth of work to do on software quality assurance; lifecycle management; software reliability; verification and validation; and risk management.

NASA is looking to award a contract for software assurance work that could be worth $500 million. The work at its Independent Verification and Validation Facility (IV&V), aims to improve the safety, reliability and quality of the technology the agency uses.

Vendors have until April 19 to submit responses for a project to independently verify and validate software systems in development not only at NASA but also at other government agencies, according to a draft of the solicitation on the Fedbizopps.gov Web site.

Both small and large firms are welcome to submit information for the five-year contract; small firms can participate in the award by partnering with larger vendors, according to the request for information (RFI).

Specifically, NASA is seeking firms with experience and skills in the following areas: software quality assurance; lifecycle management; software reliability; verification and validation; and risk management.

Interested vendors also should have experience in and knowledge of NASA policies and standards relative to software development or software assurance, and show domain knowledge of NASA flight and ground systems and software, according to the RFI.

Additionally, vendors should demonstrate embedded system experience that will facilitate NASA's IV&V Program/IV&V Project dynamic testing.

NASA's IV&V Facility in West Virginia houses more than 150 full-time engineers who evaluate the quality of software systems throughout their lifecycles. They assess software to ensure it's being developed in the correct fashion, then validate it to ensure what was built is the correct product for the job.

NASA opened its IV&V Facility in 1993 in the aftermath of the space shuttle Challenger disaster. Faulty technology on one of the craft's rocker boosters caused it to disintegrate soon after takeoff, killing seven crew members. The disaster called into question the agency's process for verifying that shuttle technology was mission-worthy, and was followed by a lengthy federal investigation.

NASA's safety record has improved since the opening of the IV&V Facility. However, in 2003 damage to Space Shuttle Columbia's heat shield caused it to explode during re-entry, killing seven astronauts " another event that derailed NASA's Space Shuttle program for a time.

The current space shuttle mission also is being hampered by a technology glitch. Astronauts on space shuttle Discovery, launched Monday, have reported a malfunction with the craft's main antenna dish that limits communication with Mission Control.

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