EU space agency to start a repository for open source applications

OSORThe European Space Agency (ESA) wants to build a repository for hosting and developing it’s open source applications, including flight software, ground software and engineering tools.

The organisation on 11 November posted a call for tender to start the development of the repository. ESA wants to determine the requirements, architecture and implementation of a repository of space open source software. “We want to guide Europe’s space industry to the available open source applications in our space domain”, Juan Miró, head of ESA’s software systems division, explained last week. “It should help them to join collective development efforts and assist them to manage software licences and licence schemes.”

Miró was one of the organisers of an ESA workshop on open source software held at the European Space Research and Technology Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, last Thursday. About eighty space scientists, engineers specialising in air traffic control and representatives of companies that develop software for Europe’s space industry presented their open course projects and discussed possibilities and pitfalls of this type of software.

Miró says that increasing the use of open source requires a lot of explaining and communication. “In any large organisation, it is difficult to make everybody aware. Using open source is not just about technical capabilities, we also need to be aware of licences and the effects they could have on intellectual property rights.”

“Contrary to rumours, ESA is not about to make open source software the default in our software procurement”, said Fabio Mazzanglia, head of the ESA’s procurement department, also involved in organising the workshop.

Mazzanglia suggests that ESA and commercial software developers together study the possibilities to combine applications made with open source software and others made with proprietary software. “If needed, we could for instance consider a licence that restricts the use to the EU member states, or investigate the possibilities to publish projects using a dual licence, that allow commercial software vendors more options.”

The ESA tender for the repository is available on the agency’s website for registered visitors.

Article was originally published at the Open Source Observatory & Repository Europe.

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