9.05 Data Interface Integrity

2. Examples and Discussion

For the purpose of this discussion, the term data integrity will be used to describe messages that are correctly formatted, not corrupted in transmission, and complete. A robust control system must test the integrity of input data and incorporate features to allow testing the integrity of its output data.

Methods that have been used to test the integrity of input data include validating the expected length of the message, verifying error detection codes incorporated in the data messages (e.g., parity bits, checksums, cyclical redundancy checks (CRC)), and ensuring the correct value of fixed bits within the message. In some cases, measurements within a message are validated to be within the operational range of the hardware device (e.g., sensor). These validity checks are used to ensure that the hardware was read properly and are performed before typical limit monitoring.  

Interface integrity checks are especially important where safety is a concern. Safety-critical commands whose inadvertent execution could pose a hazard to personnel or equipment are required to be implemented as two-step procedures (NPR 7150.2, SWE-134 (d) & (i)). Integrity checking must ensure that both parts of a two-step command are present and properly formed, as well as implementing associated constraints such as timeouts, parameter value checks, and system mode requirements.

The same methods that apply to testing the integrity of input data are used to test the integrity of output data. However, the tests are performed by the receiving device to ensure the integrity of the system (e.g., flight computer) and the transmission. The system must incorporate features (e.g., appending the error codes to output commands) to allow the receiver to perform output data validity checks.

A special case to consider is an architecture with redundant computers voting outputs and ensuring consistent inputs. Consistent inputs can be validated to be bit-for-bit identical or within an expected tolerance. Outputs are typically voted to ensure that identical commands are transmitted on redundant interfaces.

The systems fault detection and response requirements ought to specify the appropriate response to receipt of input data with integrity errors by the control system and receipt of output data with integrity errors at the end item devices. Typical responses include discarding a predefined number of incorrect messages, using a previous valid message, and substituting messages from redundant devices. Logging and reporting errors aids in troubleshooting faults.

Related design principles include 9.11 Invalid Data Handling and 9.07 Fault Detection and Response.

3. Inputs

3.1 ARC


3.2 GSFC


3.3 JPL

  • Response to incorrect commands, loads, data, or memory

         a. Flight software shall be designed to detect and respond safely to corrupted commands, data, or loads, and memory faults allocated to the software, such as stuck bits or single event effects (SEE).

    Note: For example, flight computer designs have included Error Detection And Correction (EDAC) logic on EEPROMs, and the load process has been designed to detect and respond to failure if the EDAC detects an uncorrectable bit error. Software designs have included check sum logic and periodic verification of memory to detect command, data, or load, and memory faults.

         b. Flight software shall be designed to detect and respond safely to commands, data, or loads, that are incorrectly formatted, including invalid values, or out of range parameters.
         c. Flight software shall be designed to detect and respond safely to commands, data, or loads that are invalid in the current context.

    Note: For example, a command handler should check whether a received command is appropriate for the current system mode, and a software module should check whether a command is appropriate for its local state.

3.4 MSFC

  • Software shall perform integrity checks on input and output across the computing system boundary.

    Rationale: The software design should ensure that only valid inputs and outputs are incorporated into the control system state. An integrity check ensures the message is well-formed and not corrupted. Potential faults and the action taken must be defined and determined so that actions taken upon error detection do not set off a chain reaction leading to more serious fault conditions, e.g., issuance of questionable commands to actuators as a result of a fault condition that exacerbates the problem.

4. Resources

4.1 References

  • (SWEREF-439) The NASA Lessons Learned system. The system provides access to official, reviewed lessons learned from NASA programs and projects.

5. Lessons Learned

No lessons learned 439 have currently been identified for this principle.

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