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Wanna Build a Rocket? NASA's About to Give Away a Mountain of Its Code

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NASA's Ares I-X rocket blasting off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration will allow users to acquire the software code developed for more than 1,000 different projects without paying royalties or copyright fees.


On April 10, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) will publish a master list of more than 1,000 software projects it has developed in years past, with instructions on how users can acquire the software code they specifically want without paying royalties or copyright fees.

Shortly after that, the agency will offer a searchable database of projects, and by 2015 it will host the actual software code in its own online database.

"About a third of everything we invent ends up being software these days," notes NASA's David Lockney.

This effort is part of a White House directive to accelerate federal technology transfer programs. NASA software has already been utilized in innovative initiatives outside the agency, such as marine biologists' adaptation of the Hubble Space Telescope's star-mapping algorithm to track and identify imperiled whale sharks. "Our design software has been used to make everything from guitars to roller coasters to Cadillacs," Lockney says. "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."

Lockney expects NASA's open source code catalog to experience substantial growth following its release.

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