This topic contains 2 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Michael Verret 4 years, 2 months ago.

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    Michael Verret

    I am a software engineer that is intensely interested in getting humans into space and onto other worlds. However, when I attended the NewSpace 2012 conference in California, which was an awesome and inspiring weekend by the way, everyone just talked about rockets. There was no mention of software…and only a couple of the booths actually had software on display. Rockets and space stations are obviously cool…but they don’t do much without software. How is the industry reaching out to developers?

    I understand the pool of money for space companies is relatively small so finding a formal job in software engineering might be out of the question. But, software engineers like to write software whether that be on the clock or not. Especially as a developer advances in their career and actual coding responsibilities are replaced with management responsibilities. Combine that desire to code with an ability to contribute to such an immensely noble goal as human space exploration and you’ll have a pretty dedicated and capable group of developers champing at the bit to contribute.

    I know that NASA has put several of their software projects out into the open source domain on various code repositories but it is not a very welcoming environment. My experience with it so far has been…well…here’s our code…good luck. Where is the introduction? Where are the demos and documentation to really show what these projects are and what NASA wants them to become? Where is the hit list of most wanted bugs/features? Where is the development environment definition? Open sourcing your code to get help from the community is great but you need to help developers get acclimated to the project and environment if you expect them to contribute.

    I may have made NASA’s open source initiatives sound flawed but I truly do think it is a step in the right direction. Why aren’t the private sector corporations reaching out to the open source community to develop software? I can understand not wanting a random group of unknown developers that are scattered to the winds with time commitments that cannot be guaranteed to develop flight critical components of your shiny new rockets but it does not mean they couldn’t be harnessed to develop less critical components with a longer lead time.

    So in short…I develop software…I want to help…give me and others like me something to do.


    Greg Quetin

    Hi Michael,

    This is a great post and point that brings up the question: What software is needed in space that can have a long lead time but would be valuable across platform/company?

    [It would be great to hear a bunch of suggestions and wild ideas, then maybe we can pull something together]

    Here’s a couple I’d like to see open source:

    1. Solar System Model/Navigation/Traffic Control – Even if it started out as a modeling tool. Something along the lines of Celestia (link). Is this a project you have worked with? Can it be expanded? Improved? What does it look like from a settlement point of view?
    2. Modeling/Management Tools for Space Stations. Solve this problem: Logistics of a space station. Crew and cargo take up different resources and impact the function of a space station differently. What would the software look like to manage a distribution center (people and stuff) in space?

    Other ideas? Does anyone have experience with these projects and how they are doing at NASA?


    Michael Verret

    I have been developing ground station software for the last 10 years utilizing 2D/3D map tools (like NASA’s World Wind), command and control interfaces and health & status monitoring. I would think a modification to World Wind to have a 2D/3D solar system display instead of or maybe in addition to the 2D/3D earth display would fulfill part of your first idea. You could tie in NASA data on NEOs and other known solar system objects and possibly space weather data to chart hazard overlays.

    As for your second idea it would be interesting to see what software UPS uses. They have a logistical nightmare getting packages all around the world utilizing a multitude of varying platforms with huge disparities in cargo carrying capabilities and mobility options. They must also have a pretty amazing inventory management system for their warehouses.

    I would also think you would need something like a ground station just for purposes of monitoring a space station or colony. You would need a central (with maybe redundant/backup nodes) place to see the health and status of your life support, hull integrity, atmospheric sensor data, science modules, hydroponic garden status, crew vitals, etc.

    I think there could be a huge number of applications for robotics software as well. Anything from harvesting the gardens and repairing facilities/ships to threat detection networks using swarms of small robots to give advance warning of things like micro meteorites. Or maybe simpler applications like a GPS network for space or maybe marker beacons for known asteroids. I have heard of some research using pulsars for navigation…so maybe instead of that being a robotics issue it would be more of a data analysis and processing task.

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