Deep Impact Deadly Embrace: Beware of Register Overflow Conditions

NASA/Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) lost all contact with the Deep Impact (DI) spacecraft due to a clock time data conversion function that eventually achieved an overflow condition and disabled the spacecraft. Twenty-nine other JPL projects were subsequently alerted to the potential for this flight software failure mode. This incident shows that flight system fault management functions should be designed to guard against overflow conditions caused by the numeric value of data reaching the limit that can be accommodated by a register.

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