Since its founding in 1958, NASA has been at the forefront of modern technology. Scientists and engineers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have used advanced computers, custom software, and comprehensive programs to send humans to the moon, launch the Hubble Space Telescope, and explore the surface of Mars. Now, they’re making some of their software available to the public—for free.
This month, NASA released its 2017-2018 software catalog. The catalog features over one hundred different software programs. They’re separated into 15 categories, such as “business systems,” “environmental science,” “data and image processing,” and even “propulsion.” A lot of the software is freely available to average members of the public, either through a code or by download. If you have ever dreamed of being an engineer or scientist at NASA, you now have access to the same tools they’ve used to explore the solar system.
The publication of the catalog online and in print, something NASA has been doing for several years, keeps with the organization’s mission of “supporting the innovation economy by granting access to tools used by today’s top aerospace professionals to entrepreneurs, small businesses, academia, and industry.”
Though some of the software is understandably complex and perhaps only useful if you plan on visiting the moon or Mars anytime soon (such as software called the Charring Material Ablator, which is used to analyze materials in rocket nozzles), other free software programs may actually have just as much demand in any small business setting or office as they do in NASA’s labs.
We’ve gone through the catalog and pulled out some software we think may be most useful to your business. These free software programs won’t help you build a satellite or launch a rocket into outer space, but they will help your business’s everyday tasks run a little more smoothly.
Need help managing your payroll? Want to minimize your paper pile? The Electronic Timecard System is available to any U.S. business and completely eliminates paper timecards. Instead of manually filling out, signing, and submitting piles of paper, employees can simply log time electronically and sign off on their hours worked at the end of the week. Managers and supervisors can then review all of the timecards online.
Why You Need It: There are many benefits to electronic timecards. They negate the time it takes to manually enter data at the end of every pay week. Also, because they’re stored online, they’re easy to access for reporting reasons. Finally, they help you cut back on overpaying or underpaying employees because their electronic systems can alert you to errors almost immediately.
Project Cost Estimating
Make estimating projects easier, no matter their size. NASA’s Project Cost Estimating Capability Version 2 has many of the same functionalities as Excel. It assists with calculations and equations to make estimations simpler. It also provides statistics, algorithms, and work breakdown structures. NASA uses this software to estimate the costs of its space systems, so you know that this software will be more thorough than any other cost estimating tool you may currently have in your workplace.
Why You Need It: It can be hard to estimate a project and all of the costs that go into it. However, an accurate cost estimate ensures that a project will have the resources it needs to be carried out successfully. There are many complex parts to a cost estimate, as well as unlimited unforeseen circumstances that can impact them, threatening a project before it even gets off the ground. Cost estimating software, like the one from NASA, can help you account for these circumstances while ensuring that your project has every opportunity to be successful.
Goal Performance Evaluation
Every business has goals it wishes to accomplish and a strategic plan in place to make those goals a reality. The Goal Performance Evaluation System can help your company record its goals and ensure that your strategic plan is on track. The web-based database can even evaluate employee performance and streamline company communications.
Why You Need It: Strategic planning can be difficult, time-consuming, and even expensive. However, if done correctly, the results are well worth the effort. Strategic plans not only give your company a stronger message and a firmer direction, but they also simplify the decision-making your business has to do every single day. NASA’s database can help your business achieve those much-needed results.
Going along with strategic plans, the open source mobile app RedShift makes it easy for managers and other staff members to create and follow strategic plans. It also makes meeting agendas available on both Android and iOS. The app is the very one being used by team members of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory. If they can use it to keep missions to Mars on track, it should be simple for your business to use it to improve time management or grow revenue.
Why You Need It: In business, time is valuable, so there is nothing worse than when a meeting feels like it’s been a waste of time. If employees leave a meeting without a clear mission in mind, then the meeting was probably not one worth having. However, an effective agenda can make all the difference by helping participants manage time, stay on track, and more easily identify solutions and a path forward.
With so much information cycling through your business every single day—communications, payments, new leads, proposals, and more—it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. CLAMS, or the Closed-Loop Accounting Management System, is NASA’s way of tracking, processing, and storing critical information, and it may be just what your business needs. Know when information was sent out and to whom with automated feedback from the software.
Why You Need It: How you communicate and cooperate with your clients and customers is probably the most important aspect of your businesses. This starts with managing their accounts. However, as businesses grow, it may be hard to keep up with every new and old client. With communications, sales, and even reporting, there is a lot to juggle. While account management and company-client relationships will always rely on human interactions for the fullest impact, technology can help those interactions and communications run more evenly.
There’s Plenty More to Explore
These are just some of the tools that NASA uses to remain the ultimate pioneers in space exploration and there are plenty more they are sure to develop and utilize as technology advances. After all, there is still so much more of our universe to discover and explore. Until then, you can discover and explore the ways your business can grow and improve with some of the free software programs NASA has recently made available.
Check the catalog’s site frequently for updates and browse some of the other software we didn’t include here. (Please note that, while the software is free, NASA has outlined some restrictions on who can and cannot access certain programs. For example, some software is only reserved for members and agencies working in the U.S. Government. If you decide to browse the catalog, make sure you pay close attention to the “Release Type” listed alongside every piece of software.)
While you’re perusing the catalog, remember that if you need help with any software solutions, even if the programs aren’t from NASA, we at KDG have been providing custom software development for over 16 years. NASA may have their scientists and engineers, but we have our own stellar team that would be happy to help your business develop the software it needs to thrive.