NASA plans to open source its code in a searchable database

A GLONASS satellite, courtesy of NASA.

Been meaning to build a replica of that robot you saw working with astronauts on the International Space Station? You soon might be able to: NASA will reveal a catalog on April 10 that lists where to find the software for more than 1,000 projects, Wired reported Thursday. The space agency will follow up shortly after with a searchable database.

The catalog will include the code for past NASA projects that span robots, climate simulators and rocket guidance systems (many of which are likely to be very, very outdated), according to Wired. DARPA posted a similar catalog earlier this year. NASA will also start hosting the code online by next year; while all the code is free of copyright, people will need special clearance to get their hands-on projects like the rocket guidance system.

Many of the projects are already available online, but they are spread out across many sites and difficult to find. One of the main purposes of NASA is to develop technology that can be transferred to other industries, but it is difficult to transfer technology if no one knows where to find the details.

“Our design software has been used to make everything from guitars to roller coasters to Cadillacs,” Technology Transfer Program executive David Lockney told Wired. “Scheduling software that keeps the Hubble Space Telescope operations straight has been used for scheduling MRIs at busy hospitals and as control algorithms for online dating services.”

The new code database is the result of a 2011 order from President Barack Obama that federal agencies increase the pace of technology transfer. Lockney told Wired that he would not be surprised to see many more projects added to the database after its release.

 

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