Space: The final frontier

NASA drops 2017 software catalog, bringing space technology down to Earth

Jane Elizabeth
Infrared Echoes of a Black Hole Eating a Star. Image via

It’s a wonderful time to be a space nerd. NASA has dropped their 2017 software catalog because everyone needs code for an autonomous swarm of robots.

It’s a wonderful time to be a space nerd. NASA announced last week their discovery of a system of seven Earth sized planets around a single star, TRAPPIST-1. This week, NASA has given the world access to a whole host of software and technical applications for free. This is the third time the space agency has released their technical catalog and there’s so much fun stuff in there.

Available online and in print, the software catalog itself is pretty varied with input from all of NASA’s departments, including autonomous systems, aeronautics, propulsion and crew and life support. All of these freely available programs should be helpful if you’re trying to send someone to the moon. Of course, not everyone wants to be an astronaut or needs computer programs to help support life in outer space. NASA also has useful applications for business systems and project management, systems testing, and data servers processing and handling.


NASA logo via

The Technology Transfer Program is billed as “Bringing NASA Tech Down to Earth”. Their mission is to make sure that software and technologies developed by NASA for space mission and exploration are widely available to the public.

“The software catalog is our way of supporting the innovation economy by granting access to tools used by today’s top aerospace professionals to entrepreneurs, small businesses, academia and industry,” explained Steve Jurczyk, the associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD). “Access to these software codes has the potential to generate tangible benefits that create American jobs, earn revenue and save lives.”

Process your data like an astronaut

There’s an embarrassment of riches in the data servers processing and handling category.  File Exchange Interface (FEI 5) is a Java service that offers secure file transaction, storage, transportation, and management services. It supports a 64-bit file system for very large file transfers over secure socket connections. Or perhaps you might be interested in the InSight Software. It’s an application to provide a common command and data display GUI for data streams originating from a number of data sources. There’s even libSPRITE, which was designed for real-time systems that operate on a single computational node to systematically address common coding errors. It provides for multi-threaded programming to produce the same results regardless the number of cores on the host computer node. Helpful!


These Glenn scientists are testing Saffire components. You don’t need to be in a clean suit to test your code, but it adds a certain je ne sais quoi. Image via

Stress testing for space

Okay, so I might not need a FORTRAN program to calculate velocities/streamlines of axial-, radial-, or mixed-flow turbo-machinery or annular ducts on the hub-shroud mid-channel stream surface in my daily life. But MERIDLN is there for when I do. In a slightly more practical vein, the Defect Detection and Prevention (DDP) program evaluates criticality by generating a tree of failure modes and a tree of requirements. Then it evaluates the impact of each failure mode on each requirement. And the elegant Tempest provides Internet/Intranet connectivity to real-time embedded applications, which sounds pretty useful.

SEE ALSO: NASA’s ten coding commandments

Department of Space HR

It takes a lot to get someone into space. And even NASA needs project management, HR, and even something to keep track of budget projections. With these programs, your business can join the space age too! The Electronic Timecard System allows a company to go paperless and streamline their payroll procedures. Project managers might want to look at the Action Item System, Version 2.0 or possibly the Johnson Space Center (JSC) Action-Tracking System (JATS). Both of which are programs that allow users to assign and track action items. And then there is the Project Cost Estimating Capability Version 2. It was initially developed to help create cost estimates for space systems. Now it can help you budget for that new initiative your boss is pushing for!

NASA shares because they care

NASA has shared thousands of programs with the general public since their initial catalog release in 2014. The US federal government is widely considered to be the largest creator of custom code and NASA is the only federal agency committed to sharing any with the public. While some access restrictions do exist (notably for codes for more advanced drones), the software release is meant to be as quick and easy as possible.

“Software has been a critical component of each of NASA’s mission successes and scientific discoveries. In fact, more than 30 percent of all reported NASA innovations are software,” said Dan Lockney, NASA’s Technology Transfer program executive in a press briefing. “We’re pleased to transfer these tools to other sectors and excited at the prospect of seeing them implemented in new and creative ways.”

It’s a true gift to the world. Especially this Spacewalk game. That’s making my Friday. Oh, and for any mad scientists looking to program guidance for swarms of autonomous robots, NASA’s got you covered.

Head on over to NASA Software to check out all the specs available as a part of their Technology Transfer program.

Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for

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