This document describes the initial architecture of OpenMDAO, which is the next generation open source (OS) Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization (MDAO) Framework being developed under NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program (FAP) Subsonic Fixed Wing Project.


This initial architecture is based on the MDAO requirements submitted in January 2008 and prioritized in subsequent months. The requirements prioritization was completed in mid-September 2008. The requirements leading to the OS MDAO framework design can be found in the MDAO Software Requirements Specification. Note however that the requirements mentioned there cover not only the framework but also a number of engineering tools meant to be integrated into the framework. Since the OS MDAO framework is under development, only a document ID (MDAO-Architecture) exists at this time. No document number, version number, release number, or other applicable data are currently available. Additional identification information will be included in future versions of this document as it becomes known.


This document concentrates only on the architecture of the open source framework itself and the interfaces between the framework and the engineering tools. This document is intended to be used by the MDAO Working Group and will be updated as needed.

System Overview

NASA’s Fundamental Aeronautics Program, under the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD), has a top-level goal to develop system-level, multidisciplinary capabilities for both civilian and military applications. To work toward achieving this goal, the Subsonic Fixed Wing Project has an overarching objective to develop fast and effective physics-based multidisciplinary analysis and design tools with quantified levels of uncertainty that enable virtual access to the flight envelope and virtual expeditions through the design space. NASA is investing in this effort to improve in-house analysis and design capabilities important for guiding technology investment in fundamental aeronautics areas.

For more details on the purpose of NASA’s MDAO OS framework, see the MDAO Vision and Scope Document.

Referenced Documents

The following documents were used as references in writing this architecture document.

NASA Documents:

Document Number Title
NPR 7150.2 NASA Software Engineering Requirements
GLPR 7150.1 GRC Software Engineering Requirements
GRC-SW-TPLT-SDD Software Design Description Template
N/A FAP Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization Vision and Scope
N/A FAP Multidisciplinary Analysis and Optimization Software Requirements Specification

For those with access to the NASA Glenn Research Center’s eRoom, the MDAO Glossary contains definitions of acronyms, terms, and software tools relevant to the MDAO capability. This glossary is located at:

Other References:

  • Clements, Paul, et al, Documenting Software Architectures: Views and Beyond, Addison-Wesley, Boston, 2003.
  • Gamma, Erich, et al, Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software, Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1994.
  • Langtangen, H. P., Python Scripting for Computational Science, Third Edition, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2008.
  • Ziade, Tarek, Expert Python Programming, PACKT Publishing, Birmingham - Mumbai, 2008.
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