5 NASA Software Codes You Can Download – For Free!

One of the biggest steps of any mission starts right here on Earth at a computer desk – NASA runs on software, period. Rovers can’t move, spacecraft can’t fly, even rockets can’t blast off without the software codes that run them all.

We’ve compiled hundreds of these powerful codes into one location at software.nasa.gov. And guess what? You can start downloading them right now for free! Here are just a few you can use:  

1. TetrUSS (Tetrahedral Unstructured Software System)

TetrUSS has been used extensively for space launch vehicle analysis and design, like on the Space Launch System, which is planned to take humans to Mars.

You really could say it’s helping us to “blast off.” Outside of NASA, this software has been used to analyze Mars planetary entry vehicles, ballistics and even high-altitude sky diver aerodynamics. Basically if anything has moved through any planetary atmosphere, this software has played a role.

2. KNIFE (part of the FUN3D software and released as a package)

The name may be a bit intimidating, but with good reason – KNIFE packs a powerful punch. 

It was created to help us learn more about the sonic booms that resonate when planes break the sound barrier, but it has also helped develop green energy sources such as wind turbines and techniques to minimize drag for long-haul trucking. Maybe we should re-name this versatile and handy code, “Swiss Army KNIFE?”

3. Cart3D (Automated Triangle Geometry Processing for Surface Modeling and Cartesian Grid Generation)

If software codes went to high school, Cart3D would be Prom Queen. This software is so popular, it is being used in almost every mission area here at NASA. 

Engineers and scientists are currently using it to model everything from advanced drones to quieter supersonic aircraft.

4. FACET (Future Air Traffic Management Concepts Evaluation Tool)

Frequent flyers: this may be your favorite code without even knowing it. FACET was developed to evaluate futuristic concepts in air traffic management, and it has served as a testbed for assessing today’s regular operations. 

To sum it up, this software code helps airports keep planes organized in the air and on the ground.

5. GIPSY-OASIS

GIPSY-OASIS is part of the GPS system to end all GPS systems. It’s so accurate, John Deere used it to help create self-driving tractors.

 How? John Deere already had a navigation system in the works, but it could only be used in certain parts of the world. 

Our ground stations are all across the globe, and our software ensures accuracy down to a few inches. And so, a new breed of tractor was born!  Did we mention this software is free?

These are just a few examples of the software NASA has available for free public and consumer use. To browse the catalog online, check out software.nasa.gov.

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Under Pressure

Structural Tests Underway for Top of World’s Most Powerful Rocket

Testing is underway at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on the agency’s new Space Launch System, the world’s most powerful rocket. SLS and NASA’s Orion spacecraft will enable deep-space missions, beginning a new era of exploration beyond Earth’s orbit.

Engineers at Marshall have stacked four qualification articles of the upper part of SLS into a 65-foot-tall test stand using more than 3,000 bolts to hold the hardware together. Tests are currently underway to ensure the rocket hardware can withstand the pressures of launch and flight. 

The integrated tests consists of:

1. Launch Vehicle Adapter

2. Frangible Joint Assembly

3. Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage

4. Orion Stage Adapter

Engineers are using 28 load pistons to push, pull and twist the rocket hardware, subjecting it to loads up to 40 percent greater than that expected during flight. More than 100 miles of cables are transmitting measurements across 1,900 data channels.

The Launch Vehicle Stage Adapter, LVSA, connects the SLS core stage and the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, ICPS. The LVSA test hardware is 26.5 feet tall, with a bottom diameter of 27.5 feet and a top diameter of 16.8 feet. The frangible joint, located between the LVSA and ICPS, is used to separate the two pieces of hardware during flight, allowing the ICPS to provide the thrust to send Orion onto its mission.

The ICPS is a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen-based system that will give Orion the big, in-space push needed to fly beyond the moon before it returns to Earth on the first flight of SLS in 2018. For this test series, the fuel tanks are filled with nonflammable liquid nitrogen and pressurized with gaseous nitrogen to simulate flight conditions. The nitrogen is chilled to the same temperature as the oxygen and hydrogen under launch conditions.

The Orion Stage Adapter connects the Orion spacecraft to the ICPS. It is 4.8 feet tall, with a 16.8-foot bottom diameter and 18-foot top diameter.

The first integrated flight for SLS and Orion will allow NASA to use the lunar vicinity as a proving ground to test systems farther from Earth, and demonstrate Orion can get to a stable orbit in the area of space near the moon in order to support sending humans to deep space, including the Journey to Mars. 

For more information about the powerful SLS rocket, check out: http://nasa.gov/SLS

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