Science

Psst … want some free NASA software for messaging the Space Station?

A category title page in the new catalog of free software from NASA.

Above: A category title page in the new catalog of free software from NASA.

Image Credit: NASA

Or perhaps you’d like some NASA software for controlling liquid oxygen in a rocket propulsion system?

You can have either of them for free — along with another 1,000 or so programs that the legendary agency is now making available to the public for the first time.

“This is the first major organized release of NASA software,” NASA executive Daniel Lockney told VentureBeat.

Lockney is in charge of the agency’s Technology Transfer Program, and he said the new NASA 2014 Software Catalog includes “everything we could find.”

NASA breaks down the available software┬áinto such categories as propulsion, crew and life support, and vehicle management. There’s tamer stuff, too, like project management, operations, and data server processing.

There’s a fair share of space-related code, like a pressure systems reporting tool, a Space Operations graphic learning environment, a tool for coordinating observations among observatories, and a tracker of material related to the Shuttle launch depot.

But there are also more down-to-earth programs — project management tools used by the Webb Space Telescope project, a tracking system for subcontract management, an employee survey tool about their supervisors, a Web-based help management system, and even a TicTacToe Editor and Player.

Lockney told us that the software comes in various flavors of intellectual property — some open source, some still owned by NASA but made available, some just for use in the U.S.

To get code for any particular program, you contact the listed software contact person at one of ten NASA field centers, like Johnson Space Center. “You actually call somebody or email them,” he said, a file transfer is arranged, “and they will walk you through how to use [the software].”

This PDF-and-contact arrangement is designed as a “proof of concept,” Lockney said, and the concept has proven to be a hit. “We have gotten thousands of downloads of the catalog,” he said, “and web hits have been through the roof.”

NASA’s next step is creating an online, searchable database of the catalog, followed by an online repository where programs can be downloaded directly and even kept updated by NASA programmers.

Who is using the code? Lockney said that “Boeing and Lockheed have been clamoring for this,” and other government agencies are downloading the catalog, but the intended audience also includes individuals and small businesses.

The agency is now analyzing the response. It will then be able to determine more specifically exactly who is interested in, say, NASA’s task order management system or its Joint-Execution Package Development and Integration (JEDI) application for International Space Station message management.

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