NASA Wants Help With Aircraft Code

NASA is offering a prize to coders who can help speed up the supercomputer software used to improve aircraft performance. You’ll need to be a US citizen and able to work with Modern Fortran.

While many people think of NASA as being a space organization, it also works on aeronautics closer to home. This includes work with a supercomputer known as Pleiades that is dedicated to research into aircraft technologies with the emphasis on cutting fuel use, emissions and noise.

This involves what many of us would call some complicated stuff, but NASA specifically refers to as the “FUN3D software which is used for solving nonlinear partial differential equations, known as Navier-Stokes equations, used for steady and unsteady flow computations including large eddy simulations in computational fluid dynamics (CFD).”

The problem is that the software isn’t fast enough to keep up with today’s demands. NASA has set the perhaps ambitious task of making it run between 10 and 1,000 times faster without losing accuracy or requiring a hardware upgrade.

The competition has two categories labelled Architecture and Ideation. In extremely simplified terms, the former category is about making the code itself more efficient while the latter is about rethinking the wider approach the code takes to achieving a particular goal.

Assuming the goal is achieved, NASA will award a total of $55,000 split across up to six entrants. The code is covered by export laws, so would-be entrants will have to apply to get access, with under-18s and non-US citizens automatically excluded.

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