Simulation and
Graphics Branch

The Simulation and Graphics Branch is responsible for management, development, maintenance and operation of multiple facilities that provide high-fidelity, real-time graphical simulations used to support both engineering analysis and flight crew training needs. Among these engineering facilities critical to the success of human space flight is the Systems Engineering Simulator and Virtual Reality Lab. The Simulation and Graphics Branch also provides graphics models and rendering software as well as real-time simulation models and tools throughout the Johnson Space Center and for cooperative activities with other NASA centers, government agencies, and International Space Station partners.

Integrated Graphics Operations and Analysis Laboratory (IGOAL)

The Integrated Graphics Operations and Analysis Laboratory (IGOAL) provides computer graphics services for organizations throughout NASA and other institutions. These services include: highly realistic visualizations of space systems and conceptual design concepts; custom graphics programming for simulations, visualizations, and education and outreach; 3D graphics model creation, reduction, verification and validation; and development and maintenance of the Advanced Graphics for Engineering Applications (AGEA) software. IGOAL software programming supports many platforms including Linux, Windows, Web, and the Xbox 360. IGOAL graphics models can be output in many popular formats including AutoCAD, WaveFront, and Inventor.

For more information about IGOAL contact Sharon Goza or David Shores.

NASA Exploration Systems Simulations (NExSyS)

The NExSyS team supplies simulation and analysis products to assess the design and performance of vehicles early in the development process. Models based on proposed vehicle designs are placed in simulated Earth, Lunar, Martian, or interplanetary environments while the performance of propulsive, GN&C, ECLSS, thermal, and power systems are evaluated under a variety of operational conditions. These simulations run on computational platforms ranging from laptop computers to high end virtual environments and provide analytical feedback to vehicle designers, mission concept evaluation capabilities to systems engineers, and operational insight to flight crew.


The Systems Engineering Simulator (SES) is a real-time, crew-in-the-loop engineering simulator for the International Space Station (ISS), Orion/MPCV, and advanced concepts. It provides the ability to test changes to existing space vehicles and flight software, test the interaction of a new vehicle system with existing systems, develop models of new vehicles (that may or may not yet exist) for engineering analysis, and evaluate displays and controls concepts and modifications. All of these functions are performed in a controlled yet flexible development environment, and models and capabilities developed for one customer can be used by other customers. In addition to engineering analysis work, the SES supports crew training for ISS robotic operations, including the tracking, capture and berthing of visiting resupply vehicles (HTV, Dragon, Cygnus, etc.).

Read more about SES

VR Lab

The NASA JSC Virtual Realty Lab is a virtual reality based training system for the training of Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA) and Robotic Manipulator operations.

The VR Lab uses a unique set of simulation software to control state-of-the-art graphics systems and custom robotic hardware to provide a high fidelity training system for integrated EVA and robotic manipulator operations. This simulation allows a virtual reality immersed EVA crew members to interact with multiple robotic arm operators, choreographing and rehearsing their on-orbit construction procedures without leaving the shirt-sleeve environment of the virtual reality lab. The rapidly reconfigurable nature of this system not only substantially lowers the cost of the system, but also lends itself to greatly lowered preparation and reconfiguration time. With this system any number of on-orbit scenarios can be evaluated at a fraction of the time or cost required by other training systems.

One very unique feature of the VR Lab is the zero gravity mass simulation. A high fidelity six degree of freedom simulation, coupled with a set of force/moment sensors and a custom built man-rated robot provide the response and feel of handling an object of nearly any size or mass in the zero-g environment of space. Combining this simulation with the immersive graphics and helmet mounted displays of the VR system produces both a visual and tactile experience for a crewmember handling objects in space.


Project Morpheus is a terrestrial lander used as a “vertical test bed” platform for developing technology and proving hardware and software systems for use in space exploration. Originally conceived as “Project M”, a project to land a humanoid robot on the Moon in 1000 days, this lander is a result of that effort, and the project seeks to serve as a terrestrial prototype of a planetary lander for future space missions. In line with this vision, one of the guiding philosophies of Morpheus development has been to maintain an aggressive schedule and low budget, while not deviating from a spaceflight ready architecture. These goals posed a great challenge to software development that was met through effective reuse and rapid development with open tools.

Morpheus software consists of three main components – flight software, ground software, and simulation software. While the emphasis in spacecraft development typically tends to be on the flight software – that software residing and running on the actual vehicle -- both ground and simulation software components are equally essential in developing, testing, and operating the craft.

The simulation system built for Morpheus uses a simulation engine – Trick, model library – Valkyrie, and a suite of dynamics and environmental models – JEOD. Developed and productized within ER at JSC, each of these packages has extensive use history through Shuttle, Station, MPCV and other agency-wide programs. The simulation environment, like the CFS and ITOS, supports use throughout the development, test and operations software lifecycle by providing a single simulation supporting multiple test configurations such as single-computer embedded simulation, distributed simulation, hardware-in-the-loop simulation, and operator training.

Read more about Morpheus at the project's website.


TS21 (Training systems for the 21st Century) will provide simulation-based training for crew members, instructors, and flight controllers on the operation of MOD (Mission Operations Directorate) supported spacecraft including the International Space Station (ISS), Robotics, ISS Visiting Vehicles and other future NASA owned crew transport like MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle). ER7 is tasked by MOD to develop, integrate, test and deliver the simulation and graphics products for TS21. These products include the simulation architecture and math models for the space environment, robotics, and vehicle subsystems as well as an integrated image generation system for out-the-window and camera views.