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SPICE-enhanced Cosmographia Mission Visualization Tool

Version 4.2 Release Announcement — December 2022

SPICE-enhanced Cosmographia Downloads

User's Guide with Animations

NAIF offers a SPICE-enhanced version of the open source visualization tool named Cosmographia. This is an interactive tool used to produce 3D visualizations of planet ephemerides, sizes and shapes; spacecraft trajectories and orientations; and instrument fields-of-view and footprints. Cosmographia has many user controls, allowing one to manage what is displayed, what vantage point is used, and how fast the animation progresses. One can add dynamic event annotations to the screen, such as indicators for when an instrument is acquiring data.

              CASSINI                               MRO                              DAWN

(Click on any image to see an enlargement. Click on your browser's back arrow to return to this page.)

Cosmographia originated as primarily a general interest solar system simulator, and it still works wonderfully in that role. However, with consent and assistance from the tool's author, NAIF is extending the Cosmographia tool to make use of SPICE kernels to accurately model the observation geometry of planetary missions for which substantial or complete sets of SPICE data are available. With these extensions SPICE-enhanced Cosmographia should be of interest to scientists and engineers.

Cosmographia is a stand-alone application for which executable binaries have been prepared on relatively recent versions of OSX, Windows and Linux. They likely work on more modern versions of the named operating systems and perhaps on some older versions as well.

Using SPICE data with Cosmographia requires the appropriate SPICE kernels (data files) on your computer, and a set of catalog files that use JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) to define which SPICE files to use and how to use them. NAIF prepared a User's Guide for constructing these catalog files, and also provides some templates to use as starting points. Creating or modifying catalog files must be done by the customer—NAIF hasn't the resources needed to do this for Cosmographia users.

The Cosmographia installers include SPICE style ephemeris files (SPKs) for all the planets and "major" satellites, plus two asteroids, covering the period from 1950 to 2050. Users can supplement or replace these ephemeris files with ones obtained from the NAIF server.

The SPICE-enhanced version of Cosmographia is free to all persons, including commercial entities, subject to the license and disclaimer provisions linked at the bottom of this page. There are no ITAR restrictions on this tool.

Important details about using this SPICE-enhanced version of Cosmographia with SPICE data should be read by any prospective user.

Components of SPICE-enhanced Cosmographia available for download provides access to the Cosmographia installers. Also available are the Cosmographia-SPICE Users Guide describing how to prepare JSON files needed to supply SPICE data to Cosmographia, some JSON templates, and some working examples of JSON files (these could also be used as templates). These items can be downloaded separately or as part of the installer.

SPICE-enhanced Cosmographia is one of a number of visualization tools developed within the planetary science community, some of which use SPICE to some degree, and some of which are available to interested parties. Information about some visualization tools may be found on the fourth page of this PDF. NAIF has elected to offer SPICE-enhanced Cosmographia for a number of reasons, including its full use of SPICE kernel types, our ability to add capabilities, and arrangements made with its author to allow us to freely distribute it. Those interested in solar system mission observation geometry visualization capabilities should thoughtfully make their own determinations about which visualization tool(s) to use.

NAIF provides below several very brief movie clips illustrating a bit of Cosmographia's features. After playing a movie click on your browser's back arrow to return to this page.

Cosmograhia Help


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