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  Aug. 2, 2002

Victoria Steiner

NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Phone: 650/604-0176 or 650/604-9000





Cart3D, an aerodynamic simulation tool developed jointly by Michael Aftosmis and Dr. John Melton of NASA Ames Research Center, in California’s Silicon Valley. and Professor Marsha Berger of the Courant Institute, New York University, was named today as the Software of the Year 2002 by NASA’s Inventions and Contributions Board.


The Cart3D software package provides designers and engineers with an automated, highly accurate computer simulation suite that streamlines the conceptual and preliminary analysis of both new and existing aerospace vehicles.   


“Cart3D’s novel algorithms and its state-of-the-art computational efficiency combine to provide designers with a new level of automation that reduces simulation time requirements by a factor of at least 250,” said Aftosmis, one of the co-developers. “This level of automation encourages designers to test more vehicle variations over a wider range of flight conditions than previously possible.”


Cart3D is the result of over 10 years of dedicated research and software development, culminating in a revolutionary approach to computational fluid dynamics - the computer simulation of how fluids and gases flow around an object of a particular design. Cart3D’s fusion of cutting-edge technological advancements in fields as diverse as mineralogy, computer graphics, computational geometry and fluid dynamics provides engineers with a new industrial geometry processing and fluids analysis capability unique in its level of automation and efficiency.


“The Cart3D team is absolutely thrilled to receive this award, which recognizes the utility and impact that Cart3D is having throughout the engineering simulation community worldwide,” said Melton.


“This is a great example of the success of an interdisciplinary team with members from both a government research lab and a university, where each member brought different perspectives and strengths to the problem,” added Berger.


Cart3D contributes to each of the NASA Aerospace Technology Enterprise goals, and is an outstanding example of the importance of NASA-developed software to both the military and economic security of the nation. NASA utilizes the software to ensure the safety of future space operations. Users of Cart3D include NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, in simulations of various crew escape configurations for NASA's Space Launch Initiative program.


Before the advent of this software, the basic computational tool -- the grid layout used in analyzing designs of airplanes and spacecraft -- had to be hand-generated and required months or even years to produce for complex models. Cart3D automates grid generation to a remarkable degree, enabling even the most complex geometries to be modeled 100 times faster than before.


Simulations generated by Cart3D help identify and fix problems in military transport aircraft and helicopters. Cart3D allow simulation of complex geometries in fields other than aerospace, ranging from astrophysics to computer science to electromagnetics.


The software also is being used at a number of leading universities, including Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, John Hopkins University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley. An expanding list of over 100 commercial users includes the Boeing Company, Cessna Aircraft, General Dynamics Electric Boat, Orbital Sciences Corp., Northrop Grumman, Silicon Graphics and Raytheon. Example projects at these companies include the analysis of front-line military vehicles and the conceptual design of new business jets. 


“Cart3D’s novel approach to geometry processing and spatial discretization has had a worldwide impact on high-fidelity scientific and engineering simulation in fields outside of aerospace, ranging from astrophysics to computer science to electromagnetics,” said Aftosmis.


Ames’ Commercial Technology Office has licensed the software for commercialization by ICEM CFD Engineering, a subsidiary of ANSYS, Inc. Canonsburg, Penn. ANSYS provides sophisticated engineering analyses tools to 84 of Fortune’s top 100 industrial companies. These licenses will extend Cart3D beyond traditional aerospace uses and into other industries including automotive, electronics, turbomachinery and industrial process simulation.


Ames’ co-winner in the 2002 Software of the Year Award is NASA Johnson Space Center, for its DSMC Analysis Code software package that models the flow of low-density gases over flight surfaces.


More information about the winners may be found at:





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