Spacecraft Plasma Interaction Software (SPIS)


Spacecraft plasma interaction processes lead to field and particle induced environments that may interfere with electronics or electric circuits (via charging induced electrostatic discharges), communication link (via plasma sheath structures), science plasma and astrophysics sensors (via induced particle acceleration or secondary particles). Plasma processes are also critical for the environment of electric thruster and are believed to be at the origin of several recent solar panel failures.


The scientific and technical spacecraft plasma-interaction community in Europe has created a Network, SPINE (Spacecraft Plasma Interaction Network in Europe) and has identified a need for an advanced database of freely available and open source modelling tools and input data which will be maintained by the community and available for both engineering and scientific applications.


ESA has planned a mini-project in the field of Spacecraft plasma interactions covering three main aspects of the research and industry community needs: (1) the sharing-out of computer simulation resources, (2) the sharing-out of material properties information resources, (3) the sharing-out of know how in designing spacecraft projects to address spacecraft plasma interaction issues.


The current activity addresses the first issue while issues (2) and (3) are coverer by other activities which are intended to be the subject of two other independent Invitations To Tender.


The objective of this activity are to build (1) the collaboration and working framework of the SPINE community and (2) develop the toolkit infrastructure and the components and tools themselves.


The overall software architecture is called SPIS for Spacecraft Plasma Interaction System. It is foreseen to be constituted of the following 3 main modules:

  1. Web Interface (SPIS/WI) for access to information, reports, articles and software download.
  2. User Interface (SPIS/UI) for
    • models input definition,
    • selection, assembling and running numerical routines,
    • integrating new numerical routines
  3. NUMerical core (SPIS/NUM).
    • Application routines
    • Application cases
    • Testing procedures


Products & Information

The products expected to be delivered are:

  • a prototype of the Spacecraft Plasma Interaction System including,
  • a framework for open source development of SPIS,
  • a set of core numerical routines,
  • related documentation,
  • SPINE community management tools

Please visit the SPIS home page for more information.


  • SPINE community support,
  • Progress with SMART-1 modelling,
  • Progress with magnetospheric spacecraft sheath modelling,
  • Progress with spacecraft charging at GEO and Polar Orbit modelling,



ONERA        J-F. Roussel      Technical manager and FMI main contact

Artenum       G. Sookahert     Artenum main contact

UP7              G. Rousseau     UP7 main contact

ESTEC          A. Hilgers     Initiator and Technical officer