Software from Jet Propulsion Laboratory for detecting planets outside our solar system, and from Ames Research Center for defining safety margins for fiery spacecraft re-entries have been named co-winners of the 2007 NASA Software of the Year Award.

The NASA Software of the Year competition was initiated in 1994, and rewards outstanding software developed by the agency. The competition is sponsored by the NASA Chief Engineer, with technical support from NASA’s In ventions and Contributions Board. For more information on the 2007 winners and runners-up, click here .

Adaptive Modified Gerchberg-Saxton Phase Retrieval Software

Team: Scott Basinger, Siddarayappa Bikkannavar, David Cohen, Joseph Green, Catherine Ohara, David Redding, and Fang Shi

JPL’s software characterizes the optical errors in a telescope system using innovative and robust algorithms. The software may be integrated into a telescope’s calibration control loops to correct those errors and markedly improve optical resolution. JPL’s software can be applied to other sciences and systems that use light, such as laser communications and extrasolar planet detection.

This before/after image shows how the JPL softwareallows control of distortions to correctaberrations in light. (NASA/JPL)

The software is used at the California Institute of Technology’s Palomar Observatory in northern San Diego County. A software suite was developed as a way to calibrate the internal static errors in the Palomar Adaptive Optics system. The Adaptive Modified Gerchberg- Saxton (MGS) Phase Retrieval imagebased wavefront sensing algorithm provides wavefront error knowledge for control corrections.

Early work for the software was based on efforts to correct the vision of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. After initial images came back blurry, engineers worked for months to determine the problem. Eventually, astronauts traveled to the telescope to install a corrective lens based on telescope-imaging errors. The software played a significant role in designing next-generation telescopes such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in 2013.

“Several years ago, it took teams of experts months to agree on a correct prescription for a telescope lens,” said team member Siddarayappa Bikkannavar. “Our software can do all of that in just a few minutes.”

Data-Parallel Line Relaxation (DPLR)

Team: Michael J. Wright, James Brown, David Hash, Matt MacLean, Ryan McDaniel, David Saunders, Chun Tang, and Kerry Trumble

Ames Research Center’s DPLR software simulates the intense heating, shear stresses, and pressures a spacecraft endures as it travels through atmospheres to land on Earth or other planets. It is capable of creating a highly accurate simulated entry environment that exceeds the capability of any test facility on Earth, allowing engineers to design and apply thermal protection materials suited to withstand such intense heating environments.

DPLR was used at Ames and Johnson Space Center (JSC) to define re-entry aerothermal heating environments for the Shuttle Orbiter in support of the STS-107 accident analysis, the RTF Program, and STS-114 in-flight damage assessment. DPLR, in conjunction with rapid grid generation tools, enabled same-day turnaround analysis of the potential entry risk of observed on-orbit tile damage, including the protruding gap filler and torn blanket, which allowed engineers to make informed decisions on whether a given damage site should be repaired prior to entry.

Modeling of a reaction control system with heattransfer contours on Mars Science Laboratory,using the DPLR computational fluid dynamicscode. (NASA Ames/Kerry Trumble)

DPLR is having a major impact on NASA and defense aerospace industries, and can potentially benefit civilian aerospace as well. The DPLR code directly impacts the aerospace industry disciplines of aerodynamics, aerothermodynamics, and thermal protection system design for NASA, the Department of Defense, and civilian applications. Potential applications include all civilian and military entry vehicles, hypersonic and supersonic cruise vehicles, and commercial and military launch systems. The performance and physical modeling innovations in the DPLR software have the potential to greatly enhance the design and optimization of such systems. Also, the generalized chemical kinetics and transport property packages in DPLR also make it potentially valuable for the simulation of combustion flows for both aerospace and non-aerospace applications (such as reactors or combustion engines). Other potential uses of DPLR include meteor entry analysis, breakup of de-orbiting debris, and missile plume signature analysis.