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NASA crowdsources HPC software upgrade

NASA Pleiades supercomputer 

NASA's Pleiades supercomputer

NASA is looking for a few good coders to help improve the performance of a key piece of homegrown software that allows engineers to predict the performance of space vehicles.

"This is the ultimate 'geek' dream assignment," said Doug Rohn, director of NASA's Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program.

The space agency is seeking upgrades to its FUN3D code, which dates back to the late 1980s. It's a research code largely based on modern Fortran that runs on NASA's Pleiades supercomputer, supporting advanced aviation simulations and other applications using computational fluid dynamics.

According to the agency, existing computational fluid dynamics tools are too slow for some of the more advanced engineering simulations required to push the envelope on space travel. NASA officials are looking for a modest 10,000-fold performance improvement.

"This challenge is specifically targeted to speed up the [computational fluid dynamics] portion of our aerospace research," said Michael Hetle, TACP program executive. "Some concepts are just so complex, it's difficult for even the fastest supercomputers to analyze these models in real time."

The competition, called the High Performance Fast Computing Challenge, is open to U.S. citizens over the age of 18. The citizenship requirement is due to the fact that the FUN3D code is subject to export restriction. Four winners will share $55,000 in prize money, courtesy of sponsors HeroX and TopCoder.

The HeroX portion of the challenge seeks broad ideas and approaches for improving the performance of FUN3D. The Topcoder challenge seeks code modules that accelerate specific aspects of the FUN3D performance.

Entries are due June 29 and winners will be announced Aug. 9.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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