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DO-178C PSAC Explanation in Detail

DO-178C PSAC Explanation in Detail

Table of Contents


The DO-178C standard, titled “Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification,” is a widely recognized and internationally adopted guideline for the development of software for airborne systems. It provides guidance and objectives for the software development process to ensure safety and reliability in avionics software. One of the key documents required by DO-178C is the Plan for Software Aspects of Certification (PSAC). This article aims to provide a detailed explanation of the DO-178C PSAC and its significance in the certification process.

Understanding the Plan for Software Aspects of Certification (PSAC)

The PSAC is a crucial document within the DO-178C standard that outlines the software development and verification activities necessary to achieve certification of airborne software. It serves as a roadmap for the entire software development life cycle, ensuring that all necessary processes and tasks are defined and executed properly.

Purpose of the PSAC

The primary purpose of the PSAC is to establish a comprehensive plan that demonstrates how the software will be developed, verified, and validated to meet the safety and certification objectives specified by the regulatory authorities. It provides a high-level overview of the software development process and helps stakeholders understand the approach taken to ensure software integrity and reliability.

Contents of the PSAC

The PSAC includes several key sections that provide detailed information about the software development process. While the specific contents may vary depending on the project and its complexity, the following sections are typically included:

This section provides an overview of the software development project, including its objectives, scope, and applicable regulatory guidelines and standards.

Software Life Cycle 

The software life cycle section describes the different phases of the software development process, such as requirements analysis, design, coding, testing, and maintenance. It outlines the activities to be performed during each phase and the associated artifacts to be produced.

Software Development Process 

This section explains the specific software development process to be followed, including the selection of development models (e.g., waterfall, iterative, agile) and the associated activities, such as configuration management, quality assurance, and documentation.

Software Verification and Validation Process 

The PSAC details the approach for verifying and validating the software to ensure compliance with the safety objectives. It defines the verification methods, such as reviews, inspections, and testing, along with the associated pass/fail criteria and procedures.

Software Configuration Management 

This section outlines the software configuration management processes and tools to be used, including version control, baseline management, and change control procedures. It ensures that all software artifacts and their versions are properly managed throughout the development life cycle.

Software Quality Assurance 

The PSAC addresses the software quality assurance activities to be performed, such as audits, reviews, and metrics collection. It ensures that the software development process is being followed correctly and that proper quality control measures are in place.

Software Safety 

This section focuses on the software safety aspects and defines the safety objectives, hazard analysis techniques, and mitigation strategies to address potential risks associated with the software.

Configuration Index 

The configuration index provides a listing of all the software deliverables, including documentation, source code, test cases, and test results. It serves as a reference for the entire software development team and the certification authorities.

Importance of the PSAC in Certification

The PSAC plays a critical role in the certification process by providing a detailed plan that demonstrates compliance with the regulatory requirements. It serves as a contractual agreement between the software developer and the certification authorities, ensuring that all necessary activities and artifacts are properly defined and executed.

By following the PSAC, the software development team can establish traceability between the software requirements, design, and verification activities. This traceability is essential for demonstrating that the software has been developed and tested correctly and that it meets the specified safety objectives.

Moreover, the PSAC provides a framework for risk management, as it includes sections dedicated to safety, hazard analysis, and mitigation strategies. It ensures that potential risks associated with the software are identified and addressed appropriately, thus enhancing the overall safety of the airborne system.


The Plan for Software Aspects of Certification (PSAC) is a vital document within the DO-178C standard that serves as a roadmap for the software development and certification process. It outlines the necessary activities, processes, and artifacts to ensure the integrity, reliability, and safety of airborne software. By following the guidelines provided in the PSAC, software developers can effectively demonstrate compliance with regulatory requirements and achieve successful certification for their airborne systems.

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