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Ask HN: opensource projects for space industry?
7 points by egor83 on May 22, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 6 comments
Today's Falcon9 launch [1] was extremely exciting, and it got me thinking - except for working for SpaceX or a space agency (NASA/ESA/Roskosmos/...), how can a programmer do something for the space industry?

Does anyone know any opensource projects that SpaceX or NASA use? Maybe some of their own projects accept help from the outside?

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4006519

I used to work for a bunch of astronomers. Here's some of the software I remember them using a lot. Not sure about the licenses though most of them provide sourcecode:

* http://root.cern.ch/drupal/

* http://geant4.web.cern.ch/geant4/

* http://www.sron.nl/~richardh/SciaDC/index.html

* http://www.hdfgroup.org/HDF5/

* http://hea-www.harvard.edu/RD/ds9/

* http://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/fits_liberator/

And of course: FTOOLS:

* http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/software/ftools/ftools_men...

Here's one method to contribute: packaging and testing them on different distros.

Have fun storming the castle!

Seems it's mostly C++, data and image processing.

Thanks for the links!

I recently read Jim Lovell's book Lost Moon about the problematic flight of Apollo 13. It paints a reasonably detailed picture of the 1960's systems that put men on the moon.

I would say that the software problems are relatively simple compared to the hardware issues of space flight. Software isn't going to offer much improvement to the ballistic facts, nor is it going to make much difference in overall reliability of the in-flight systems - fault tolerance and fail safety have been understood for a long time. I suspect that most of the impact of software would be on the manufacturing side of the project.

To put it another way, once the rocket is lit, the computer is pretty much going where the rocket is pointed regardless of what software is running.

On the other hand, the idea of open source space hardware is pretty interesting and might have a significant chance of impacting the fortunes of people living in the developing world.

While I agree that the balance of soft/hardware in a rocket is shifted more to hardware side, I don't think their software is trivial. For instance, some of the delays to this last SpaceX launch due to software validation problems [1].

And then, yes, there's always manufacturing and planning - CAD programs, flight planning (maths/astronomy). Robotic rovers are also part of the industry - that's AI, control systems, computer vision and image recognition etc.

[1]: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2012/05/spacexs-dragon-debut-...

Its a tangent and a bit more down to earth but there's some NASA research mentioned in Airborne Wind Energy thing at https://github.com/giving/giving.github.com/issues?state=ope...

Or maybe something else on giving.github.com takes your fancy?

It's indeed a tangent, but an awesome one, thanks!

And they link to RHoK, which is also great.

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