In What are the choices today for orbital mechanics simulation software?, an entire range of software was listed for many platforms. I'd like to narrow this down a bit. Specifically, two questions:

  1. Which of these software packages, if any, can perform trajectory analysis for deep-space probes, including calculating gravity assists?
  2. For those of you familiar with NASA's Copernicus trajectory analysis package, how do these compare?

"Deep-space", for the purposes of this question, includes currently known Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNO). Also, you need not limit yourself to the specific packages mentioned in the above referenced question.

  • $\begingroup$ I tried to get a copy of Copernicus but they won't hand it out to civilians >.<. $\endgroup$
    – Stu
    Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Stu: the nerve! Only available to those with government contracts, bummer. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 11, 2014 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ Some self advertisement can't hurt, right? :) Anyway, that's in MATLAB. AFAIK, many of the tools used in any sort of professional context are home grown and usually very specific. The market is also not big enough to justify development of a generic, user-friendly software package. I've heard STK does a reasonable job, but I don't have personal experience here. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 18, 2014 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


The software used for this at JPL is all homegrown. A great deal of effort goes into the optimization algorithms for complex, multi-body and/or low-thrust trajectories. You can try to request tools here. Examples are CATO, Mystic, and MALTO. However these tools are not really intended to be "user friendly", and require a great deal of domain expertise to operate.


a.i. solutions (www.ai-solutions.com) has multiple tools that handle space mission design. Their high fidelity FreeFlyer is directly comparable to STK/ODTK in every way and is used for many NASA and USAF missions. For Deep Space trajectory design like described above they also have a complementary visual tool called the Deep Space Trajectory Explorer which is being built to be very simple to use. It handles Lagrangian Halo, P2 centered Ballistic and Asteroid centered trajectories.

Quasi-periodic trajectory search around Europa

Vail 2015 AAS presentation
Mixing Earth-Moon L1 Halo and P2 centered Ballistics


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