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 are the Systems Engineering Simulator and the Virtual Reality Lab. The Simulation and Graphics Branch also provides graphics models, rendering software, and 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.

At A Glance


Our Expertise

●  ER7 is responsible for management, development, maintenance and operation of multiple facilities, including the Systems Engineering Simulator (SES) and the Virtual Reality Lab (VR Lab), that provide high-fidelity, real-time graphical simulations used to support engineering analysis and crew training needs.
●  ER7 also provides graphics models, rendering software, visualizations, and simulation models and tools that are used throughout JSC and other NASA centers, government agencies, and International Space Station partners.

Our Role in Flight Projects

●  Visualization and simulation are key components to a successful space program. All new programs start out as ideas, but the tools that ER7 produces helps engineers turn these ideas into reality. These tools are used:
     ○  to enhance the design of new vehicles, including MPCV, where concepts are virtually “flown” in a simulator and evaluated for safety, efficiency, operability, etc.
     ○  to plan missions involving already-built vehicles, like ISS, by helping mission planners to ensure success while minimizing risk.
     ○  to train astronauts as they prepare for flight by immersing them in a flight-like environment to enhance skills and prepare them for all potential contingencies.

What We Need

●  ER7 products are built off of specifications from vehicle and mission designers. In many cases, models of specific vehicle systems produced by other NASA organizations are incorporated into ER simulations.

Challenges We Face

●  Our primary concern is that our simulations are sufficiently accurate for the purposes for which they were built. All simulations are approximations, and allowable uncertainty is dictated by intended use. Balancing fidelity with cost is a never-ending challenge.

When We Engage

●  Simulations should be a central component during all phases of a space vehicle, from conceptualization through design, implementation, and operations.

Points of Contact

POC Role Email
Mike Red Branch Chief
Mike McFarlane Deputy Branch Chief


     Integrated Graphics Operations and Analysis Laboratory (IGOAL)    

Integrated Graphics Operations and Analysis Laboratory

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; and 3D graphics model creation, reduction, verification and validation. IGOAL software programming supports many platforms including iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, and the web. IGOAL graphics models can be output in many popular formats including FBX, Blender, AutoCAD, OBJ, and Inventor. IGOAL software products include: Space Station Research Explorer (mobile devices on iTunes and Google Play), Visual ISS Communication tool, AGEA, EMU Explorer, and Counter Measure Systems Explorer.

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


NASA Exploration Systems Simulations

The NASA Exploration Systems Simulations (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.

    NASA Exploration Systems Simulations

     Systems Engineering Simulator image 1
Systems Engineering Simulator image 2
Systems Engineering Simulator image 3

Systems Engineering Simulator

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 the SES at the project's website.


Virtual Reality 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 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.

    Virtual Reality Lab

     JSC Engineering Orbital Dynamics    

JSC Engineering Orbital Dynamics

The JSC Engineering Orbital Dynamics (JEOD) is a high-fidelity physics engine for modeling the behavior of space vehicles in an orbital or interplanetary environment. Written in C++, JEOD models are collections of classes that implement the 6-DoF dynamics of a space vehicle and the space environment. JEOD is primarily intended for use in TRICK simulations of space vehicles; however, dependence on the simulation engine is isolated to an interface, which can be implemented for other simulation platforms.

JEOD is Class C software as defined by NPR 7150.2. JEOD development is part of the JSC Spacecraft Software Engineering Team (SSET) and the SSET maintains a rating of CMMI level 3. JEOD has been used for almost all dynamic simulations of space vehicles at JSC as well as in private industry. Notable projects include TS21, NExSyS, Morpheus, Orion, Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown, and Commercial Crew. JEOD is available for general US release through the JSC Office of Technology Transfer and Commercialization. It is classified under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) as USML category XV(f) and is controlled for export compliance reasons and may NOT be released to the general public nor made available for foreign release.


Training Systems for the 21st Century

TS21 (Training Systems for the 21st Century) provides simulation-based training for crew and flight controllers on the operation of FOD (Flight Operations Directorate) supported spacecraft including the International Space Station (ISS), ISS Visiting Vehicles, and Orion. ER7 is tasked by FOD 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.

    Training Systems for the 21st Century

     JSC ER General-Use Nodal Network Solver (GUNNS)    

Simulation Tools

ER7 produces several software tools to facilitate building and operating simulations. This includes the Trick Simulation Environment, which provides a common set of simulation capabilities that allow domain experts to concentrate on domain-specific models rather than simulation-specific functions like job ordering, input file processing, or data recording. Trick's flexible feature set enables users to build applications for all phases of space vehicle development including early vehicle design and performance evaluation, flight software development and testing, flight vehicle dynamic loads analysis, and virtual and hardware-in-the-loop training.

The General-Use Nodal Network Solver (GUNNS) is a tool that combines nodal analysis and the hydraulic-electric analogy to simulate fluid, electrical, and thermal flow systems. It was developed to create medium-fidelity, real-time simulations for crew and flight controller training, and its ability to rapidly model complex integrated systems make it an ideal systems engineering tool: enabling detailed concept comparisons; facilitating requirement and design change impact assessments; and providing realistic environments for testing developmental flight software, high fidelity component and subsystem models, and prototype, developmental, and certification subsystem hardware. It includes core run-time models and code as well as graphical user interfaces for network design and run-time analysis.