NASA has announced a $55,000 award for tweaking its aircraft designing software to run 10,000 times faster than one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers. The competition, called the High-Performance Fast Computing Challenge (HPFCC), invites qualified contenders to manipulate the NASA’s FUN3D design software and make it faster than the Pleiades supercomputer.
“This is the ultimate ‘geek’ dream assignment. Helping NASA speed up its software to advance our aviation research is a win-win for all,” said Doug Rohn, director of NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Programme (TACP). NASA’s aviation research is based on what is often described as a three-legged stool.
One leg sees initial designs tested with computational fluid dynamics (CFD) which relies on a supercomputer for numerical analysis and data structures to solve and analyse problems.
Another leg involves building scale models to test in wind tunnels and hopefully confirm previous CFD results. The third leg takes the research into the air, such as with experimental aircraft – or X-planes – that can fly with or without pilots, to further analyse and demonstrate a particular technology’s capability.
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“This challenge is specifically targeted to speed up the CFD portion of our aerospace research,” said Michael Hetle, TACP programme executive. “Some concepts are just so complex, it’s difficult for even the fastest supercomputers to analyse these models in real time,” Hetle said.
The FUN3D software is written predominately in Modern Fortran programming language. Since the code is owned by the US government, it has strict export restrictions requiring all challenge participants to be US citizens over the age of 18.
NASA is looking for qualified people who can download the FUN3D code, analyse the performance bottlenecks, and identify possible modifications that might lead to reducing overall computational time.
Examples of modifications would be simplifying a single subroutine so that it runs a few milliseconds faster. If this subroutine is called millions of times, this one change could dramatically speed up the entire program’s runtime. A prize purse of up to $55,000 will be distributed among first and second finishers in two categories. Code submissions must be received by June 29, and winners will be announced August 9.