Riding a Dragon Into Space

Testing is one way to prevent catastrophe, but sometimes catastrophes happen anyway. It’s often interesting to look at other industries to see how they handle contingency planning.

Earlier this week, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the first scheduled resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch was mostly successful, although one engine malfunctioned which resulted in a small of explosion of debris from the rocket. While the internal computer made corrections and was able to deliver its primary payload to the right orbit (the ISS resupply inside the Dragon capsule), it failed to deliver its secondary payload to the right orbit (a small satellite from ORBCOMM).

Rocket launch failures happen somewhat frequently, and some of history’s worst rocket accidents have happened either on the launch pad or during launch. That’s why it’s very important that man rated rockets (those intended to carry human beings) include some kind of escape method. SpaceX is working on one such system as part of man rating the Dragon capsule, but it won’t be fully tested until 2014 (and the Dragon won’t carry humans until at least 2015).

So how does a launch escape system work? Well, it depends on the type of rocket and when the accident happens. For the Mercury and Apollo programs, a large solid rocket motor was attached to the top of the space capsule that would carry it away from the rocket below. The capsule could then deploy parachutes and safely fall back to earth. While this has never been required for an American launch, the Soyuz rocket uses a similar system which was successfully deployed when a fire broke out during the countdown for Soyuz mission T-10-1.

The SpaceX Dragon will use a very similar system, although the launch escape rockets will be built in to the Dragon capsule itself. SpaceX’s system will use a newly designed version of their Draco attitude control thruster rockets called SuperDraco. In the event of a rocket malfunction, the SuperDracos will push the Dragon capsule off the rocket to safety.

So what can we learn from this? First of all, problems happen despite massive efforts to prevent them. One of the Merlin rockets in the Falcon 9 that launched this week failed. Despite that fact, the systems were able to complete the launch with the remaining engines and accomplish the primary mission.

Secondly, even really good systems need escape routes when failures happen. SpaceX is investing almost a billion dollars in making the Falcon 9 and the Dragon capsule rated for humans. As part of that, they’re building newer and more robust systems to help pilot human beings away from catastrophe should an accident happen.

The investment we make in these systems may seem excessive, but they’re essential for protecting human lives and ensuring the success of missions. Software testing may seem mundane in comparison, but remember that all of these fancy systems are powered by software. And that software needs its own rigorous contingency planning, failure analysis and testing.

At the end of the day, bugs happen. And when they do, it’s nice to have a solid rocket engine carry you to safety over the horizon.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Guest Post: uTest – My First 100 Cycles

Lucas DargisLucas Dargis joined the uTester community in March 2012. He joined with an eye toward expanding his knowledge base and getting widespread experience. To help him stay on that track, Lucas set three goals for himself. Today’s guest post will tell you how he achieved those goals ahead of schedule and what keeps him coming back to uTest. You can laern more about Lucas by visiting his uTest Profile or his blog.


So I’m a little late, I’m actually at 138 cycles, but I wanted to give an update on my uTest experience now that I’ve got 100 cycles under my belt.


When I first signed up with uTest I set a few goals. I really had no idea how realistic they were, but you have to at least have something to shoot for right?

By the end of 2012 (9 months from when I started) I wanted to:

  1. Earn my gold badge in Functional testing
  2. Become a TTL (Test Team Lead)
  3. Develop a strong reputation within the uTest community

Gold badge

I got my functional badge within 30 days of my first test cycle. At first this was actually a disappointment. I was really looking forward to the challenge of having to work hard for that badge.

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Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

Calling All Software Experts: Share Your Knowledge

Do you have a great software-related story or experience you’re itching to share? Submitting a guest post is a great opportunity to share your thoughts and gain exposure. If you have a blog post that covers software development, mobile apps, web apps or real world testing you should consider submitting to blog@utest.com.

Being a crowdsourced software testing company, we aim to share insight from the people who know software best. No one knows software better than the developers, testers and end users. From development or testing experts who share their biggest challenges or thoughts on agile development, to freelance tech writers who experience the software themselves – no matter what your software background we’d love to hear from you. So what should you write about, and how do you submit a post?

Depending on your topic, your guest post may be published on one of the following blogs (including this one):

All posts should be original content. To review the guidelines for submitting a post, or to get ideas for what to write about, please visit the Guest Blog Post Submission page.


Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

The Power of Mobile: CTIA MobileCON 2012

Mobile is all the buzz at the San Diego Convention Center this week, as wireless and IT professionals serious about mobile applications join together for CTIA’s Mobile Conference. All three days of keynote sessions center on deploying, syncing and strategizing enterprise mobility. While the attendees come from a wide range of industries, they all have one thing in common – they care about the growth and use of smartphone technology.

One of the biggest pains we’ve heard passing through the conference is the pressure from enterprises to launch a mobile app as soon as possible. Companies see mobile as a game changer, and want to take their enterprise mobile quickly. When there is rush and pressure, that is when mistakes happen.

Are you at MobileCon this week? Be sure to stop by uTest’s booth 715 to learn more about how uTest ensures real world mobile quality. After you leave a keynote on best practices for taking your enterprise mobile, it can’t hurt to learn about a company like uTest that ensures your app will survive and thrive in the real world.

So come by! We are giving away a lot of great prizes and will be raffling off a new iPad at the end of the week.

What was your favorite keynote at MobileCon? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing

How to Be a Good Agile Tester

Agile TestingWe keep talking about being agile and what that means in terms of a company’s SDLC. At uTest we focus on the testing part of that Agile method, but what really makes a good Agile tester? Does it even matter if you’re good at testing in an Agile environment or can you just be a good software tester in general?

We decided to explore this topic with one of our gold testers, Brian Rock, in a new uMentor webinar - Aspects of a Good Agile Tester. So join us Thursday October 11 at 1 pm EDT as Brian talks to us about:

  • Using source control change lists to understand testing risk
  • Understanding product architecture
  • Understanding the business objects of your product
  • Using logs to trouble shoot problems
  • Using browser-based tools to debug problems
  • Plenty of time for Q&A

If you can’t make it, don’t worry, this webinar will be recorded and posted online later this week. In the meantime, check out all of our past uMentor webinars, including:

  • Introduction to Automation Testing using Selenium
  • Introduction to iOS Testing
  • Introduction to Android Testing
  • Introduction to Mobile App Testing
Essential Guide to Mobile App Testing