How to quickly install and setup NASA HEASoft on Ubuntu (or any Debian based) Linux

The official Installation guide for heasoft is overwhelming and confusing for many new users who are trying to install HEASoft for the first time. Hence this tutorial where I will show each step very simply.

Note: This is for installing HEASoft from source.

Step 1:

Download the HEASoft software from the official page.

Step 2:

Cut paste the file to the Home folder and right-click Extract here in the same folder.

Step 3:

Open Terminal and input the following:

sudo apt -y install libreadline6-dev libncurses5-dev xorg-dev gcc g++ gfortran perl-modules python-dev

These are the dependencies that are needed by heasoft to function.

Step 4:

Navigate to the build directory where you will install your software.

cd heasoft-6.21/BUILD_DIR/

Note that the heasoft version in the above command should match with the one you downloaded.

Step 5:

./configure 2>&1 | tee config.out

This may take a few minutes.

Step 6:

make 2>&1 | tee build.log

This will take a lot of time. A lot. It took me above an hour! Go have a Pizza and come back.

Step 7:

make install 2>&1 | tee install.log

Heasoft is now installed. But there are two more steps left to make it easy to use.

Step 8:

Close the terminal and open it again. Then input the following one after the other:

export HEADAS=heasoft-6.21/(PLATFORM). $HEADAS/headas-init.shalias heainit=". $HEADAS/"

(PLATFORM) is a placeholder for the platform- specific string denoting your machine's architecture. It will be something like this:

  • i686-pc-linux-gnu-libc2.5

Step 9:

Open your bashrc file using the following command:

sudo gedit .bashrc

Replace gedit with your text editor name if you are using something else.

Once the file is open, go to the end of it. And copy paste the same commands from your terminal as Step 8 below the last line of the text file.

Save it, close it and you are done!

Now you can run heasoft by just the following terminal command:


I hope you found the tutorial simple and helpful.

Note that this is just a quick install and setup tutorial, which should work for most of your needs. But if you require some advanced options while installing heasoft, the Official Guide is where you go.

Written by

Science writer passionate about space exploration and the Moon. Words at The Planetary Society, The Wire Science and more. All articles at

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