Software development at DLR
In space and aerospace engineering, computers play a central role. The used software includes mission-critical real-time software embedded into technical systems, efficient codes for simulation with demands for high performance, software for supporting complex tasks such as data management and computational steering of large distributed computations, and software for a large number of users such as web-based applications.
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The development of software is a core activity at most DLR institutes. About a quarter of DLR’s manpower is assigned to it. Projects range from small software tools developed by students to large long-term cooperations with other research centers, academia, and industry.
In most developments the consistent use of freely available open source software (OSS) leads to a noticeable reduction of development time. In some cases only 10% of the software needed by a project has to be written from scratch. Other benefits include the stability of well-tested OSS packages and their constant further development. Overall, OSS is an important key technology used by many DLR projects.
Usage of OSS
At DLR, a variety of different OSS tools is used. At the operating system level Linux is applied as desktop or server configuration. For the development of software, free interpreters (e.g., Python or Perl), free compilers (e.g., the GNU Compiler Collection), and various libraries (e.g., for data base access, XML processing, or numerical computations) are used. Web-based applications are often realized using frameworks such as Zope, Plone, or Spring. Software developers at DLR are using free integrated development environments, such as Eclipse, and development tools, such as Subversion or Mantis.
Many space projects in the areas of concurrent engineering or simulation-based testing apply model-driven development and model search technologies. OSS products used for these purposes include openArchitectureWare, Lucene, openSESAME, Eclipse with EMF, and DLR’s own OSS framework RCE.
Providing Open Source Software
DLR publishes many of its own developments as OSS and so allows others to use the software or even participate in its development. Also, DLR actively takes part in ongoing OSS projects by contributing source code or by coordinating the development. The involvement in OSS projects is published at Open Source conferences (e.g., ApacheCon, FrOSCon, EuroPython, or Eclipse Summit).
Examples for Open Source Projects of DLR:
- The Remote Component Environment (RCE), a distributed integration system based on Eclipse and OSGi.
- The DataFinder, a tool for management (e.g., organization and archiving) of scientific and technical data, which is implemented in Python.
- Catacomb, a WebDAV extension module for the Apache Web-Server and DAVInspector, a tool for analyzing the WebDAV protocol.
- RepoGuard  for the integration of software engineering tools with version management systems, such as Subversion, Git, or Mercurial.
- SUMO (Simulation of Urban Mobility) for simulation of road traffic.
- The real-time embedded operating system RODOS designed for applications demanding high dependability.