NASA Leads the Drive for Open-Source Software in the Pursuit of Scientific Advancements

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has long been driven by software to execute everything from space travel to intergalactic imaging, which has led it to open-source developers for innovation. Now, the agency is launching a new program built on the concept of “open science,” which seeks to liberate scientific research for use by anyone, amateur or professional. The venture is led by Steve Crawford astronomer and data officer of NASA’s science directorate; he hopes to engage in open communication with the scientific community.

Become a Subscriber

Please purchase a subscription to continue reading this article.

Subscribe Now

Crawford presented his group’s goals and strategies in an address at the 2023 Free and Open-Source Software Developers' European Meeting in Brussels this past February. He impressed NASA’s need for open-source software to tackle everything from climate change to space exploration. The technology has driven previous projects, including the James Webb Space Telescope and Mars Ingenuity helicopter, the latter of which is powered by F Prime, an open-source flight-control software product.

The senior program executive also noted the wide range of software solutions developed and released by NASA scientists, such as the cloud computing platform OpenStack. He estimates over 44,000 software products have been delivered by NASA researchers and missions. Since 2021, the agency has invested at least $3 million in funding for open-source projects.