NASA Langley Research Center


  • Open and secure collaboration environment
  • Social features enhance collaboration
  • Easily customizable
  • Migrated over 800 sites and 200,000 documents
  • Over 3,000 now have access to team collaboration
  • Low cost subscription model


NASA’s Langley Research Center is the oldest NASA field center providing aeronautical, aeroacoustic, and structural testing and research services for NASA departments, the Department of Defense (DoD) and commercial clients. Each year the NASA Langley Research Center conducts hundreds of tests designed to improve aircraft and spacecraft safety, performance, and efficiency. These tests are performed by specific teams of engineers, researchers, technicians, managers and customers who need to share ideas and collaborate on test documentation.

NASA built a home grown collaboration portal, aeroCOMPASS, that allowed NASA Langley to create individual team sites for sharing and commenting on documents, notes and other research files. After 10 years in use, aeroCOMPASS software had become outdated and could no longer meet NASA’s strict security guidelines.

With over 800 sites in use, NASA needed to move aeroCOMPASS to a modern collaboration and document management environment that would provide them the flexibility to customize the system; migrate their existing sites and content; and maintaining security permissions.


NASA reviewed multiple document management systems and determined that Alfresco Share was the best fit for their requirements. One of the benefits that came with the Alfresco product was the subscription licensing model. The Alfresco subscription licensing model is based on the server size versus the traditional client seat model. While aeroCOMPASS may only have 300 active users at any given time, those users fluctuate. As a result, all 3,000 aeroCOMPASS users need access to the system on a continual bases, though spread out over time. A traditional client seat model would not only impact the support cost directly, but also would incur the overhead associated with managing who has access to the available licenses.

With an open source product, NASA also has access to the software code, allowing the IT department to easily customize Alfresco Share to meet user needs. NASA customized the user interface to have a familiar look and feel and removed features that users did not need. For example, NASA hid standard Alfresco items that didn’t fit into NASA’s account management model, such as inviting new users to the site and access to the Alfresco repository.

Alfresco Share integrates with NASA’s OpenSSO/OpenAM authentication system and users can leverage single-sign on technology to access the Alfresco Share aeroCOMPASS sites. Users outside NASA Langley are invited to a team site using the NASA account management system and authentication. This allows NASA Langley to adhere to the Agency account management model and ensures that users have the appropriate security permissions to access sensitive information.

Once Alfresco was implemented and configured, the IT department was able to develop a migration strategy for moving and mapping their existing 800 sites and over 200,000 documents to Alfresco. Leveraging TSG OpenMigrate, NASA was able to migrate all the files and sites to Alfresco.

Alfresco Share provides NASA with the collaborative team sites they were accustom to in aeroCOMPASS, but using a secure, modern architecture. While not all the functionality is the same, users have a personal dashboard that allows them to easily see what new documents, images or videos have been added to their project sites and what individual team members are working on. Within a team site, users can create and share lists of items and activities. Users are taking advantage of new features such as previewing documents using a thumbnail view.

NASA leveraged Alfresco Support for help implementing and configuring Share and tapped into the Alfresco user forum to help answer questions. For example, due to a bug in Adobe Flash Uploader/SSO (Adobe bug) users are unable to upload multiple Adobe files. Alfresco Support advised a work around that included creating a custom bulk import/export function using zip files. The export capability also allows NASA to export documents for archival.


  • Using Alfresco Share, NASA was able to build a new team collaboration system with a similar look and feel as its original aeroCOMPASS system, but using a secure, modern architecture.
  • Having access to the open source code made customizing Alfresco simple and ensures that NASA has a system it can support for years to come.
  • NASA IT does not have to manage seat licenses, saving IT time and ensuring that users can access collaborative content whenever they need it.
  • NASA Langley provides over 3,000 users access to Alfresco Share, manages over 4651 Alfresco groups, 414 User groups, 4651 Groups, 4237 Alfresco System Groups and 847 Team Sites

What’s Next

NASA Langley is planning to upgrade to Alfresco Share 4.0 in mid-2012. The move to 4.0 will help improve the overall performance of the system and provides the additional capabilities that users have requested. For example, users lost the ability to document ‘Shift Notes’ (activities that happen during a member’s specific work shift) in a system-provided calendar structure. NASA is evaluating the 4.0 features to determine how to best add this functionality back into the system with either built-in Alfresco features, or integrating with another product.

Alfresco serves as the foundation for collaboration within the ground testing facilities at NASA Langley. The IT department is looking at integrating it with other technologies to provide better remote capabilities and access on mobile devices such as iPads, Android Tablets, and iPhones.

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