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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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Because space is vast and full of mysteries, NASA is developing a new rocket, a new spacecraft for astronauts and new facilities to launch them from. Our Space Launch System will be unlike any other rocket when it takes flight. It will be bigger, bolder and take astronauts and cargo farther than humankind has ever been – to deep space destinations like the moon, a deep space gateway or even Mars. 

The Gravity-Slayer

When you plan to get to space, you use ice and fire. NASA’s Space Launch System uses four rocket engines in the center of the rocket and a pair of solid rocket boosters on opposite sides. All this power will propel the Space Launch System to gravity-slaying speeds of more than 17,000 miles per hour! These are the things we do for space exploration, the greatest adventure that ever was or will be.

It is Known

It is known that according to Newton’s third law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s how rocket propulsion works. Fuel burned in combustion chambers causes hot gases to shoot out the bottom of the engine nozzles. This propels the rocket upward. 

Steammaker

It is also known that when you combine hydrogen and oxygen you get: water. To help SLS get to space, the rocket’s four RS-25 engines shoot hydrogen and oxygen together at high speeds, making billowing clouds of steaming hot water vapor. The steam, funneled through the engine nozzles, expands with tremendous force and helps lift the rocket from the launchpad. 

RS-25: Ice King

It takes a lot of fuel (hydrogen) and a lot of oxygen to make a chemical reaction powerful enough to propel a rocket the size of a skyscraper off the launch pad. To fit more hydrogen and oxygen into the tanks in the center of the rocket where they’re stored, the hydrogen and oxygen are chilled to as low as -400 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, the gases become icy liquids. 

The Fire that Burns Against the Cold

The hydrogen-oxygen reaction inside the nozzles can reach temperatures up to 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit (alas, only Valyrian steel could withstand those temperatures)! To protect the nozzle from this heat, the icy hydrogen is pumped through more than a thousand small pipes on the outside of the nozzle to cool it. After the icy liquid protects the metal nozzles, it becomes fuel for the engines. 

Where is my FIRE?

The Space Launch System solid rocket boosters are the fire and the breakers of gravity’s chains. The solid rocket boosters’ fiery flight lasts for two minutes. They burn solid fuel that’s a potent mixture of chemicals the consistency of a rubber eraser. When the boosters light, hot gases and fire are unleashed at speeds up to three times the speed of sound, propelling the vehicle to gravity-slaying speed in seconds. 

Testing is Here

To make sure everything works on a rocket this big, it takes a lot of testing before the first flight. Rocket hardware is rolling off production lines all over the United States and being shipped to testing locations nationwide. Some of that test hardware includes replicas of the giant tanks that will hold the icy hydrogen and oxygen.

As Rare as Dragonglass

Other tests include firing the motor for the solid rocket boosters. The five-segment motor is the largest ever made for spaceflight and the part that contains the propellant that burns for two fiery, spectacular minutes. It’s common during ground test firings for the fiery exhaust to turn the sand in the Utah desert to glass.

Hold the Door

When all the hardware, software and avionics for SLS are ready, they will be shipped to Kennedy Space Center where the parts will be assembled to make the biggest rocket since the Saturn V. Then, technicians will stack Orion, NASA’s new spacecraft for taking astronauts to deep space, on top of SLS. All this work to assemble America’s new heavy-lift rocket and spacecraft will be done in the Vehicle Assembly Building – one of the largest buildings in the world. Hold the door to the Vehicle Assembly Building open, because SLS and Orion are coming!

Learn more about our Journey to Mars here: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/journeytomars/index.html

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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

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com/.

Testing Time for the SLS Engine Section

In schools across the country, many students just finished final exams. Now, part of the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), is about to feel the pressure of testing time. The first SLS engine section has been moving slowly upriver from Michoud Assembly Facility near New Orleans, but once the barge Pegasus docks at our Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, the real strength test for the engine section will get started.

The engine section is the first of four of the major parts of the core stage that are being tested to make sure SLS is ready for the challenges of spaceflight.

The engine section is located at the bottom of the rocket. It has a couple of important jobs. It holds the four RS-25 liquid propellant engines, and it serves as one of two attach points for each of the twin solid propellant boosters. This first engine section will be used only for ground testing. 

Of all the major parts of the rocket, the engine section gets perhaps the roughest workout during launch. Millions of pounds of core stage are pushing down, while the engines are pushing up with millions of pounds of thrust, and the boosters are tugging at it from both sides. That’s a lot of stress. Maybe that’s why there’s a saying in the rocket business: “Test like you fly, and fly like you test.”

After it was welded at Michoud, technicians installed the thrust structure, engine supports and other internal equipment and loaded it aboard the Pegasus for shipment to Marshall.

Once used to transport space shuttle external tanks, Pegasus was modified for the longer SLS core stage by removing 115 feet out of the middle of the barge and added a new 165-foot section with a reinforced main deck. Now as long as a football field, Pegasus – with the help of two tugboats – will transport core stage test articles to Marshall Space Flight Center as well as completed core stages to Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for test firing and then to Kennedy Space Center for launch.

The test article has no engines, cabling, or computers, but it will replicate all the structures that will undergo the extreme physical forces of launch. The test article is more than 30 feet tall, and weighs about 70,000 pounds. About 3,200 sensors attached to the test article will measure the stress during 59 separate tests. Flight-like physical forces will be applied through simulators and adaptors standing in for the liquid hydrogen tank and RS-25 engines.

The test fixture that will surround and secure the engine section weighs about 1.5 million pounds and is taller than a 5-story building. Fifty-five big pistons called “load lines” will impart more than 4.5 million pounds of force vertically and more than 428,000 pounds from the side.

The engineers and their computer design tools say the engine section can handle the stress.  It’s the test team’s job prove that it can.

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

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com/