NASA is offering a $15,000 prize if you can speed up its simulation code

NASA just announced several bounties to improve its FUN3D software, which is used to simulate fluid dynamics. The system is used internally at NASA, as well as by companies like Boeing and Lockheed, to develop and optimize new vehicles and engines.

The FUN3D project was started back in the 1980s, and it has been in active development for decades, but NASA’s looking for help to optimize the code. It’s offering $15,000 and $10,000 prizes to the top two contributors of code optimizations, and is also offering another bounty for more general optimization suggestions.

Two catches: FUN3D is export-controlled, so while the code is freely available to any US citizen, it’s not officially available to anyone outside the US. Second catch is that the core, mathy part of FUN3D is written in Fortran, a mostly infamous programming language that was developed in the 1950s and is still favored by some scientists but isn’t very popular with general programmers.

NASA says it’s hoping for a 10X–1000X speed improvement, which sounds like a lot to ask for — especially given the fact that anyone that much better than NASA’s engineers at Fortran and math can probably make a lot more money doing contract work. But there’s something kind of cool about a challenge to optimize code that NASA runs on its Pleiades supercomputer to make spaceships better, so maybe it will find some takers.

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