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NASA Open Source Software Build Science

NASA Open Sources Aircraft Design Software 116

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-a-plane dept.
First time accepted submitter sabre86 writes "At the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics Aerospace Sciences Meeting in Nashville, NASA engineers unveiled the newly open sourced OpenVSP, software that allows users to construct full aircraft models from simple parameters such as wing span and fuselage length, under the NASA Open Source Agreement. Says the website, 'OpenVSP allows the user to create a 3D model of an aircraft defined by common engineering parameters. This model can be processed into formats suitable for engineering analysis.'"
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NASA Open Sources Aircraft Design Software

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  • There doesn't seem to be a Linux port at the moment?

    • Re:Strangely (Score:5, Informative)

      by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:30PM (#38706482)

      There doesn't seem to be a Linux port at the moment?

      The link you're looking for is

      http://www.openvsp.org/zips/OpenVSP_2.0_community_src.zip [openvsp.org]

      They do not distribute a pre-compiled packaged linux version. Download source, compile, install locally, or wait for the inevitable Debian package to be created (assuming its "open source" license is DFSG free, I have not bothered to analyze it in detail)

      • Re:Strangely (Score:4, Informative)

        by david.given (6740) <dg@NOsPaM.cowlark.com> on Sunday January 15, 2012 @02:11PM (#38707120) Homepage Journal

        I've just read the license; it all looks pretty standard to me. It's got a requirement for source code distribution alongside binary distributions; it doesn't appear to require that modifications are licensed under the same license (but see below); there's a patent waiver; and there's a number of non-binding clauses that shouldn't be there at all. It's all pretty muddy and unclear.

        The only suspicious bit is that there's a requirement that modified versions of the software are labelled as such in a changelog, and that modifiers must be identifiable. This may violate the Debian Dissident Test [wikipedia.org]. However, it doesn't define what 'identifiable' means. It may be possible to argue that a pseudonym would do. You'd have to ask someone who actually knows.

        • That wouldn't violate the dissident test, because you only have to be identifiable to downstream people that are (in the transitive closure of) people that you choose to distribute to.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            That's not the point of the dissident test -- imagine you're subject to an oppressive lord. You see a change you could make and distribute to allow others to use this software in a way the "lord" doesn't care for, but the people do.

            If you choose to distribute this, you don't want to get caught, so you must send out patches without your real name on it. You still want to give it to your neighbors, though, so you've got a problem.

            I've not looked at it's DFSG-freeness, but that bit sounds like it violates the

            • Check what the test says again. If you can make changes and distribute them just to the people, not to the lord, then it's fine.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ranguvar (1924024)

          I looked it up. The NASA Open Source Agreement 1.3 is OSI certified, but the FSF deems it non-free.
          Since NASA World Wind is in Debian's nonfree repository, I assume that would be where this will go too.

          "The NASA Open Source Agreement, version 1.3, is not a free software
          license because it includes a provision requiring changes to be your
          “original creation”. Free software development depends on combining
          code from third parties, and the NASA license doesn't permit this."

          http://lists.debian.org/deb [debian.org]

          • by david.given (6740)

            Yes, you're right --- I did read that bit, but didn't realise what it meant.

            Sigh. Shame, really. I wonder if there's any way someone could talk sense into them?

            • by Ranguvar (1924024)

              Talk sense into them?

              I'm not sure about this particular case, but the FSF/SFLC and Debian Legal have a lot of experience with this sort of thing.
              IANAL, and I can't find a well-versed contention to their opinion, so I trust them to make the right call.

              Keep in mind, I'm not saying they're arbiters of truth and untruth, just that they're quite reasonable people from what I can tell (and therefore are unlikely to need sense talked into them, no offense).

              • by david.given (6740)
                I actually meant NASA --- if they could be persuaded to switch to a more useful license, preferably a standard one, their software would become vastly more useful.
      • What's wrong with this place? Plenty of posts below the above raving about licences and nothing apart from the post above about building it.
        Anyone else get stuck on building "ScriptMgr" in "vsp" and did you find a way around it?
  • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:34PM (#38706522)
    Is the output Makerbot compatible? I want to use this to design a next generation super jumbo for my Makerbot!
    • by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:45PM (#38706606)

      It outputs to rhino, and rhino outputs (with some effort relating to units conversion, or so I hear) to makerbot, so yeah, you could make a model of a X-1 or X-15 or similar rocket powered plane, make a cylindrical cavity in the model for a little estes model rocket engine, and you'd almost be flying, except for the little problem that it might model aerodynamically, but the center of gravity is pretty much ignored, you you're going to have to figure that part out.

  • Paper (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm (69642) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @12:40PM (#38706566)

    All I can get from the website/wiki is thats its a tool that processes things, which is kind of vague.

    I found this paper via google:

    http://www.mae.virginia.edu/meclab/images/AIAA%20Paper%20--%20VSP.pdf [virginia.edu]

    Not a goatse link, honest.

    If you remember the microsoft flightsimulators of the 80s/90s you could list specs and it would make you a plane, like make me a plane with a 50 foot wingspan and then you would attempt to fly it. This is pretty much the same idea for spec'ing a plane but instead of simulating flying it, it dumps out a file containing the model that you can do "whatever" with. Something like clippy for aerospace cad "so you seem to be trying to make a twin engine turboprop, would you like a wizard to help with that?".

  • I tried, big, fast, pretty...

  • Foamies Anyone? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alphacharliezero (2469428) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @01:01PM (#38706700)

    As someone who is into foam-built RC aircraft I am excited by the possibilities of this software. Electronics not included, a plane costs me about $10 to build. While I've built enough planes that I can just 'wing it' (See what I did there?), It would be fun to use this software to design RC planes...

  • by Digana (1018720) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @01:37PM (#38706912)

    Why does NASA, a government agency, claim copyright on software?

    And why does NASA release software under a non-free license [gnu.org]?

    It's not that hard. Use an existing license. Stop inventing your own licenses that conflict with truly free collaboration.

    • by perpenso (1613749) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @03:27PM (#38707658)

      And why does NASA release software under a non-free license?

      GNU's specific complaint: "The NASA Open Source Agreement, version 1.3, is not a free software license because it includes a provision requiring changes to be your “original creation”. Free software development depends on combining code from third parties, and the NASA license doesn't permit this."

      NASA's actual terms: "Each Contributor represents that that its Modification is believed to be Contributor's original creation and does not violate any existing agreements, regulations, statutes or rules, and further that Contributor has sufficient rights to grant the rights conveyed by this Agreement."

      The GNU complaint seems somewhat bogus. By claiming to be the creator, i.e. the copyright holder, and providing the mandatory change logs there is an audit history. NASA has a clear paper trail and a clear assignment of the right to use, modify and distribute from the copyright holder. The Linux kernel being locked into GPL v2 seems to suggest that NASA has thought this through more than the GNU folks did, or perhaps learned from the mistakes of the GNU folks.

      • by Digana (1018720)
        The problem is that the wording in the NASA license insists that the work must be your "original creation". You seem to not address the problem of how this wording seems to not allow you to grab someone else's code and combine it with NASA's to create a new work.
        • by perpenso (1613749)

          The problem is that the wording in the NASA license insists that the work must be your "original creation". You seem to not address the problem of how this wording seems to not allow you to grab someone else's code and combine it with NASA's to create a new work.

          On the contrary, the following quote from my post precisely addresses grabbing someone else's code:
          "NASA has a clear paper trail and a clear assignment of the right to use, modify and distribute from the copyright holder."

          By ensuring the contributor is the copyright holder various problems and unintended consequences can be avoided.

          • by Digana (1018720)
            I don't get it. You agree then that this license forbids me from grabbing someone else's free code, mixing it with NASA's, because it's not my original creation, but someone else's? How are you extrapolating from "your original work" to "paper trail"?
            • The NASA terms require the contributor to identify themselves as the creator, i.e. the copyright holder, and to also submit a change log. This statement and the log are the paper trail. Note that the NASA terms also define the rights to use, modify and redistribute. If you just grab someone else's code you are a licensee not a copyright holder and do not have the authority to agree with NASA's terms. Only the copyright holder can agree to NASA's terms.
    • Why does NASA, a government agency, claim copyright on software?

      And why does NASA release software under a non-free license [gnu.org]?

      It's not that hard. Use an existing license. Stop inventing your own licenses that conflict with truly free collaboration.

      Use an existing license. Stop inventing your own licenses that conflict with truly free collaboration.

      The issue is that a license like the GPL is discriminatory to certain business models, namely those that keep source code changes private. The problem is that such discriminatory terms are inappropriate in a taxpayer funded project. Taxpayers who chose to make derived works and keep the changes private should be allowed to do so.

      If you fund a project yourself you have every right to make that project GPL based. However if you seek taxpayer funding you have to be fair and accommodating to all taxpayers, e

      • by Digana (1018720)

        Huh, the GPL doesn't forbid you from keeping changes private. It forbids you from distributing changes without source. If you don't distribute, there is no problem.

        Furtheremore, Whatever, GPL isn't the only free license. Use a BSD-style license or any other license without copyleft.

        I still don't understand how an agency of the US government can claim copyright, though. Usually what happens is that the government subcontracts to individuals and are then bound by the copyright claims of those individua

        • by perpenso (1613749)

          The issue is that a license like the GPL is discriminatory to certain business models, namely those that keep source code changes private.

          Huh, the GPL doesn't forbid you from keeping changes private. It forbids you from distributing changes without source. If you don't distribute, there is no problem.

          And there is no business model so your point is not on topic. ;-)

          Furtheremore, Whatever, GPL isn't the only free license. Use a BSD-style license or any other license without copyleft.

          Agreed.

          I still don't understand how an agency of the US government can claim copyright, though. Usually what happens is that the government subcontracts to individuals and are then bound by the copyright claims of those individuals. How is NASA getting away with this?

          The contracts established between NASA and the individuals or subcontractors could include some sort of "work for hire" type clause where copyright is assigned to NASA? Much like the Regents of the University of California held the copyright on all the code written by professors and students back in the day.

          • by Digana (1018720)

            The issue is that a license like the GPL is discriminatory to certain business models, namely those that keep source code changes private.

            Huh, the GPL doesn't forbid you from keeping changes private. It forbids you from distributing changes without source. If you don't distribute, there is no problem.

            And there is no business model so your point is not on topic. ;-)

            Sure there is. It's part of many organisations' business models. To take one heavy-handed example, Google. They grab Linux-based source code, create their own internal distribution [wikipedia.org], and use it to power internal development and massive servers that are turning in a pretty penny.

            • by perpenso (1613749)

              ... It's part of many organisations' business models ...

              But not the business models I was referring to. I wrote "certain business models", not "all business models".

          • And there is no business model so your point is not on topic. ;-)

            You might want to ask the woman next to you for her signature.... I think you're way out on a limb there and Shirley Maclaine's signature might be the only benefit.

            Google, IBM, eBay, BBC, etc, etc - a very long list of small enterprises who make money on the back of GPL (greater and lesser version) that you've probably never heard of, and can be excused for not being able to research.

            Here's another obscure one that some taco cowboy rode into retirement. [slashcode.com]. You were probably a big authority in primary school -

            • by perpenso (1613749)

              Google, IBM, eBay, BBC, etc, etc - a very long list of small enterprises who make money on the back of GPL (greater and lesser version) that you've probably never heard of, and can be excused for not being able to research.

              Actually the problem is that you have missed the context of this discussion. Since we are discussing software that is being *distributed*, in-house undistributed software is an irrelevant tangent. Whatever Google is doing in-house is irrelevant to the issues that NASA faces in distributing this software.

              • Actually the problem is that you have missed the context of this discussion.

                You could hurt your back lugging those goalposts around all the time. See if you can find a company in that list that doesn't distribute the code. Do you even have a fucking clue what the GPL is? HInt: it's useless unless distribution is involved.

                Just because you can argue the toss (or how many angels can party on the head of a pin) doesn't mean you should.

        • by kthreadd (1558445)

          I've always wanted to know how NASA can say that I can't come in each time I try to walk into their hallway, I mean, how can an american agency own a building?

          • You may find this enlightening:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright_status_of_work_by_the_U.S._government

    • They have been told this:

      http://www.slideshare.net/ckleclerc/2011-nasa-open-source-summit-david-wheeler [slideshare.net]

      See in particular slide 22.

      I suspect any meaningful change in the policy dictating NOSA use, if its even possible, will take years....

  • I understand the GPL issues, but I am uncomfortable giving this to the North Korean government for starters.

    Public disclosure isn't always best for the public. Just saying.

    • STFU (Score:3, Informative)

      by bussdriver (620565)

      Making a 3D skin model and making a real jet are two totally different things. Not to mention the academic information behind this can be openly found and used; I doubt they are adding much theory that isn't already known.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        You can say that about any CAD software or any finite element package but you can't get all of those for free either. Take it at face value instead of being upset that it doesn't cuddle you at night.
    • Could not agree more. China, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, etc. will make use of this.
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday January 15, 2012 @06:40PM (#38709090) Homepage Journal

    Can the 3D data models this SW generates be fed into a machine that cranks out a physical model? With RC aircraft becoming so cheap, it might be cool to use the SW to design a craft that can be rendered in matter, then outfitted with the RC parts. Maybe some RC derbies could use standardized mechanics in different bodies, competing purely on the body design.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      i've used this program, and no it cannot link into SolidWorks.

      The short version is there are CAD guys, mesh guys, and analysis guys. The analysis guys want to be able to quickly change their model (e.g. wingspan) without having to go back to the CAD or the mesh guys. VSP (Vehicle Sketch Pad) is for the preliminary aircraft design analysis guys that need to change major parameters of their vehicle. The more things that they can change, the less they'll rule out options that are just hard to analyze.

      VSP ca

  • China, in particular.
    • China, in particular.

      And humanity in general.

      • Humanity will NOT benefit for it. Chinese gov. will. And they will deny any fruits from this to Humanity.
      • BTW, if you think that helping China helps humanity, how do you feel about them acquiring other weapons from us (read stealing)? Think that is helping humanity?
        • No, I do not think helping China is helping humanity, but I to believe this helps humanity, not just china. And no I dont think making more weapons, or opening up weapon design, or letting anybody steal weapon designs is any good for humanity, China or the US.

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