Spacecraft Design Tool (SDT), a Microsoft Windows-based satellite simulation software tool, has supported numerous satellite missions since 1993.


SDT is a 6 DOF simulation tool in the sense that it models the satellite’s position and attitude as a function of time.  For satellite positioning and propagation, SDT incorporates numerical propagation with force models defined for Earth gravity, drag, and SRP.  The user may add additional force models via scripting or custom plug-ins.  Attitude is modeled via numerically integrated force models as well.

Operates at the satellite component and system level

Contains a High fidelity Visualization Engine

Models Attitude

Allows for Sensor and Payload Analysis

SDT provides a graphical user interface (GUI) for user interaction.  The GUI allows the user to customize the satellite’s components and configuration, as well as define custom procedures and in-application scripting for modeling specific vehicle or component behaviors.  Off the shelf, SDT contains a number of built-in components with default values that can be modified by the user to better represent actual hardware models using manufacturer-provided datasheets.   After each component is added to SDT’s spacecraft model, it can be located and oriented.  

Perform design trade off analysis

Provide simulation for analysis and testing of the mission ground system

Serve as a flexible development framework; .NET plug-in architecture and scripting

SDT is a  powerful tool that validates mission requirements, tests spacecraft components at the individual level, and creates an infrastructure for the assembly and integration of components and flight software.


Applying SDT Across a Development Life Cycle

The capability of SDT is not localized to a single domain. The flexibility of SDT allows for use across the entire development life cycle. For example, SDT has been used for the following:

Mission Definition

  • Mission Simulations
  • Mission Trade Studies

Proposal Efforts

  • Architecture Trade Studies
  • Spacecraft Component Sizing
  • Cost Estimating
  • Customer Demonstrations

Mission Engineering

  • Requirements Definition
  • Spacecraft Design Support
  • Mission Operations Planning

Design and Implementation

  • Mission Analysis
  • Spacecraft Subsystem Simulations and Analysis
  • Requirement Verification
  • Flight Software Test

Integration and Test

  • Dry-Run Assembly
  • Dynamic Test Simulator
  • Anomaly Resolution Support
  • Mission Operations Planning/Training


  • Deployment Simulations
  • Operations Training and Rehearsals
  • Operations Procedures Dry Runs


  • Maneuver Planning and Simulations
  • Anomaly Resolution Support
  • Validate On-Orbit Configuration Changes


  • Disposal Approach Trades
  • Disposal Simulations