NASA awards outstanding software

NASA officials earlier this month selected a project developed by a Long Beach, Calif., small business as one of the outstanding software programs of the year.

Alpha Star Corp. worked with the space agency to develop Genoa, an application designed to predict the durability and life cycle of man-made materials, such as new alloys or aircraft wings.

Alpha Star developed Genoa through the national Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program, receiving about $600,000 from the program for its work over the past eight years.

Since October, the company has been selling Genoa to companies such as aerospace firms, said Kay Matin, president of Alpha Star. Federal agencies can get the Genoa code for free because the tool was developed under a federal program, but they will have to pay for training and upgrades, she said. Commercial customers can pay $155,000 to buy a copy of the software for one computer.

Genoa is one of two projects NASA has recognized for fulfilling roles that are crucial to the successful development and deployment of air and space vehicles. The other program, Remote Agent, which was developed by NASA, plays a key part in the management of the Deep Space 1 probe launched last year.

The application tells NASA how long a part will last, taking into account the environmental conditions under which it is being used, Matin said.

Matin described Genoa as a graphically "robust" tool that includes more than simply a series of equations for predicting how a structure or a material will deteriorate under varying levels of heat, moisture, stress and other factors. It also includes a visual function that enables users to view a "virtual model of the part or the structure" they are studying, according to Matin.

Analyzing durability "becomes very critical in things such as aircraft," said NASA aerospace engineer Pappu Murthy. Engineers traditionally have assessed the durability of materials by taking them into a laboratory and subjecting them to various tests or conditions, he said, and Genoa will help NASA shorten that process.

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