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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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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. 

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Girls Like Girls 💖 A Crush Playlist

Stop Desire // Tegan and Sara | Crush // Sleigh Bells | Hang Out With You // Mary Lambert | Sleepover // Hayley Kiyoko | Say My Name (feat. Zyra) // ODESZA | Make Out // Julia Nunes | 2Shy // Shura | Closer // Tegan and Sara | Closer to You // Brandi Carlile | Saturday // Rachael Cantu | I Want To Hold Your Hand // T.V. Carpio | Girls Like Girls // Hayley Kiyoko | Checking My Pulse // Alix Olson | Dontcha // The Internet | Tongue Tied // Shura

Find Out Why We’re Blasting this Rocket with Wind

The world’s most powerful rocket – our Space Launch System (SLS) – may experience ground wind gusts of up to 70 mph as it sits on the launch pad before and during lift off for future missions. Understanding how environmental factors affect the rocket will help us maintain a safe and reliable distance away from the launch tower during launch.

How do we even test this? Great question! Our Langley Research Center’s 14x22-Foot Subsonic Wind Tunnel in Hampton, Virginia, is designed to simulate wind conditions. Rather than having to test a full scale rocket, we’re able to use a smaller, to-scale model of the spacecraft.

Wind tunnel tests are a cost effective and efficient way to simulate situations where cross winds and ground winds affect different parts of the rocket. The guidance, navigation, and control team uses the test data as part of their simulations to identify the safety distance between the rocket and the launch tower.  

SLS is designed to evolve as we move crew and cargo farther into the solar system than we have ever been before. The Langley team tested the second more powerful version of the SLS rocket, known as the Block 1B, in both the crew and cargo configuration. 

Take a behind-the-scenes look at the hard work being done to support safe explorations to deep-space…

Below, an engineer simulates ground winds on the rocket during liftoff by using what’s called smoke flow visualization. This technique allows engineers to see how the wind flow behaves as it hits the surface of the launch tower model.

The 6-foot model of the SLS rocket undergoes 140 mph wind speeds in Langley’s 14x22-Foot Subsonic Wind Tunnel. Engineers are simulating ground winds impacting the rocket as it leaves the launch pad.

The cargo version of the rocket is positioned at a 0-degree angle to simulate the transition from liftoff to ascent as the rocket begins accelerating through the atmosphere.

Here, engineers create a scenario where the rocket has lifted off 100 feet in the air past the top of the launch tower. At this point in the mission, SLS is moving at speeds of about 100 mph!

Engineers at Langley collect data throughout the test which is used by the rocket developers at our Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, to analyze and incorporate into the rocket’s design.

Learn more about our Space Launch System rocket HERE

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