June 26, 2017 1:52 pm JST

NASA gives private sector further access to its software

Drone control and satellite image analysis among technologies available

YUICHIRO KANEMATSU, Nikkei staff writer

© Reuters

PALO ALTO, U.S. -- NASA has further opened up its software vault. The U.S. space agency will allow the private sector more access to some of its programming in an effort to tap often underutilized resources for the development of new businesses outside the space industry.

NASA recently released a catalog listing software, code libraries and software development tools that are available to private companies registered with the U.S. federal government.

Most were originally applied to the operation of rockets and spacecraft, but the space agency believes they hold potential for a host of other applications. 

The software collection includes programs for analyzing images of the Earth's surface and other planets, compressing image data and designs based on hydrodynamics. Coders see potential in a video image stabilization program up for grabs, as well as one for flight control and navigation. 

The U.S. space agency has also made available to the general public some satellite imagery browsing software and climate simulation modeling as open sources.

NASA hopes its research findings and technologies will nurture non-space industries and raise the efficiency of software development through collaboration with the vast community of developers in the private domain. 

Various new applications are possible. For example, software that analyzes the movements of objects on Earth could be developed into information services that are adopted in financial transactions. Existing programs could contribute to the development of drone operation systems, and satellite imagery analysis software could be used to create content. 

NASA envisions its technology also helping the private sector by cutting development costs. For instance, rather than creating a program from scratch, existing software could be adopted by air transport companies to analyze aerial data. 

Jenn Gustetic, a senior official at NASA in charge of cooperation with small and midsize companies, said it is important that technologies developed by the agency are put into use by society at large.

NASA plans to speed up cooperation with companies in various ways. "Pulling in the private sector and offloading the technology to them ... addresses NASA's needs and leads to the commercialization of research," she said. 

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