SPIS, Spacecraft Plasma Interaction System

Spacecraft charging analysis with SPIS

SPIS, for Spacecraft Plasma Interaction Software, is a rich and advanced 3D modelling tool for the spacecraft-plasma interactions, able to model a large set of phenomenon relative to spacecraft charging.

SPIS includes an advanced 3D electrostatic plasma solver based on a unstructured mesh and able to dynamically model detailed sheath structures around complex and realistic geometries.  Integrating several models (hybrid/full-PIC/backtracking…), SPIS is able to handle a large scale of plasma conditions and physics.

With years, SPIS became the de facto European reference tool for spacecraft charging analysis.


SPIS versions/flavours

It is today declined into several versions:

  • SPIS-SC for surface charging analysis. It contains several improvements added through the years:
    • GEO/LEO, adding to surface charging analysis for mission in GEO/LEO and rapid engineering analysis;
    • SCI, adding support for advanced studies and scientific applications in surface plasma interactions;
    • DUST, adding modelling of dusty plasma and their interaction with landers, taking account the Lunar or asteroid ground topography
    • EP, adding the modelling of effects of electrical thrusters on space systems
  • SPIS-IC focuses on internal charging analysis
  • SPIS-ESD specialised for the modelling of ESD on solar arrays  (not maintained).

Please note that the release or version numbers are referrer to development projects closure and are orthogonal to the branches and flavour. See the historical phases, corner stone releases section for further explanation.

Previous versions (i.e. older than 5.0) are gathered is the SPIS-Legacy page. This version is kept for historical and tracking reasons and is not maintained anymore.

Open-source and availability

In the frame of the SPINE community, SPIS is released under the GPL license.

It integrates several third parties open-source components according to the OSI. You are haowever invited to check the SPIS’s documentation to know the different licenses of the various embed software components and check if you can use them in your context. The Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) is owned by the core development team (ONERA for SPIS-NUM, ARTENUM for SPIS-UI) and some contributor.

It is available for free and without geographical restrictions.

The SPINE community just reminds to the future users that SPIS has been developed in the objective of peaceful applications and fare scientific research and encourage such purposes.

Access the software

To download to the software, you must be registered as SPINE member.
Please note that old logins from previous website are not valid anymore, you need to register again.

The current reference versions of SPIS are:

Documentation, forums, bug-trackers and data

  • Documentation: Each packaged release is provided with its related user documentation. All documents are gathered in the $SPIS_ROOT_DIR/documentation directory. However, the documentation is also available on line.  
  • SPIS forum dedicated to the SPIS system.
    • SPIS category on the SPINE forum is dedicated to the SPIS software questions and issues;
  • Bug-tracker dedicated to SPIS:
    • The main SPIS bug-tracker is dedicated to centralise and track bugs, malfunctions, fixes and possible improvements related to SPIS.
    • Archives of previous bugs and fixes (static)
  • Data and examples: Since SPIS 6.0, the examples and inputs data are packaged separately. This package includes several fully pre-set projects and geometries. These examples are compliant with SPIS version 6.0 and higher. For older SPIS versions please refer to the data directory packaged with the software release.

Core development team and key contributors

Most of the developments have been performed by:

  • ONERA/DESP/DPhy for the numerical core (aka SPIS-NUM)
  • ARTENUM for the tailored Integratel Modelling Environment (IME) (aka SPIS-UI) and the related pre and post-processing tools

Contributions have been offered by:

  • Airbus DS (as Astrium)

To contact the core development team, contact us.


Projects, historical phases, corner stone releases

The development of SPIS has been initiated in 2001 and been done through several projects, mostly supported by ESA and CNES, and numerous contributions from the community.

Most of theses projects were focused on a thematic development, related to the specific physic or numerical model, and have led to development phases. The version of the software mainly refers to the closure of these projects and development phases.

Each project has been initially developed in the frame of dedicated branches. Part of them has been merged into the trunk development line and appears as flavours.

For memory the following projects have marked the development history of SPIS:

SPIS legacy (i.e. versions up to 4.3.1)
  • SPIS initial development project, officially “Spacecraft Plasma Interaction Analysis and Simulation Toolkit project” (ESA project ref. F/20161/DAT-CVES ), 2001-2005
  • Contributions as third parties components: Integration of the Artenum’s Cassadra 3D post-processing facility
  • SPIS-Time dependant, officially “Time Dependant Simulator of Charge and Discharge on Spacecraft (TDSCDS)” (ESA project with CNES support)
  • Contributions as third parties components: CNRS/CETP- Interactions dʼun satellite avec le plasma ambiant et équilibre électrique du satellite (ref.23646): Introduction of additional export modules for the mesh structure and deployed data-fields
  • SPIS-Cleanliness officially “Computational tools for spacecraft electrostatic cleanliness and payload accommodation analysis” (ESA project ESA Co 4000102091/10/NL/AS),  2011
  • SPIS-Maintenance to Computational tools for spacecraft electrostatic cleanliness (ESA project ESA Co 4000102091/10/NL/AS),  2011
  • SPIS-ESD, officially “Development of a Predictive Discharge Numerical Model on Solar Panels” (ESA project ref. AO/1-5849/08/NL/AT with CNES support)
  • SPIS-IPICS
  • ElShield, officially “Energetic Electron Shielding, Charging and Radiation Effects and Margins” (ESA project ref. 22839/10/NL/AT)
SPIS new generation (i.e. versions 5.0 and higher)
  • SPIS-GEO officially “Simplified Standard MEO/GEO Tools for Spacecraft Charging“ (ESA project ref. AO/1-6218/09/NL/AT with CNES support)
  • Contributions as third parties components: Migration to OSGi based design with the Artenum’s Keridwen IME
  • SPIS-SCI officially (ESA project co 4000102091/10/NL/AS)
  • SPIS-DUST officially “Dust electrostatic charging, transport and contamination for Lunar Lander and Human Exploration Missions” (ESA project  40004107327/12/NL/AK), 2012
  • CIRSOS officially “Collaborative iterative radiation shielding optimisation system“ (ESA project ref. 4000108668/13/NL/MV), initiated in 2013
  • Contributions as third parties components: Experimental ARTENUM/GMDL-to-Geo converter.
  • SPIS-EP officially “Improved Modelling of Electrical Thruster induced Plasma Plume Interaction” (ESA project ref. ESA Co 4000116103/15/NL/LF):
  • Contributions as third parties components: Dynamical bundle loader
  • SPIS-ASPOC officially “Modelling of Electrostatic Environment of ion Emitting Spacecraft”(ESA project ref. F/20 542/DAT-PPUJ), still pending

Please refer to the dedicated sub-pages and/or archives for further detail.

Maintenance contracts and sub-developments are not listed here.
Dates are indicative.