A SPICE module for the Satellite Orbit Analysis Program (SOAP) precisely represents complex motion and maneuvers in an interactive, 3D animated environment with support for user-defined quantitative outputs. (“SPICE” stands for Spacecraft, Planet, Instrument, Camera-matrix, and Events). This module enables the SOAP software to exploit NASA mission ephemeris represented in the JPL Ancillary Information Facility (NAIF) SPICE formats. Ephemeris types supported include position, velocity, and orientation for spacecraft and planetary bodies including the Sun, planets, natural satellites, comets, and asteroids. Entire missions can now be imported into SOAP for 3D visualization, playback, and analysis.
The SOAP analysis and display features can now leverage detailed mission files to offer the analyst both a numerically correct and aesthetically pleasing combination of results that can be varied to study many hypothetical scenarios. The software provides a modeling and simulation environment that can encompass a broad variety of problems using orbital prediction. For example, ground coverage analysis, communications analysis, power and thermal analysis, and 3D visualization that provide the user with insight into complex geometric relations are included.
The SOAP SPICE module allows distributed science and engineering teams to share common mission models of known pedigree, which greatly reduces duplication of effort and the potential for error. The use of the software spans all phases of the space system lifecycle, from the study of future concepts to operations and anomaly analysis. It allows SOAP software to correctly position and orient all of the principal bodies of the Solar System within a single simulation session along with multiple spacecraft trajectories and the orientation of mission payloads. In addition to the 3D visualization, the user can define numeric variables and x–y plots to quantitatively assess metrics of interest.
This work was done by Robert Carnright and Claude Hildebrand of Caltech and David Stodden and John Coggi of The Aerospace Corporation for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.