This is the NASA video AMS Time Lapse Installation a time-lapse of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) installation at the International Space Station. At about 01:30 in the video, there is about 1 second where it jumps to a some computer simulation.

What is being shown exactly? Is it CGI or CAD or something else?

screen shot from NASA video AMS Time Lapse Installation

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    $\begingroup$ Oh man, the comments on this video make me cringe… how is it that people do not think about that these missions need to be planned, simulated and tracked, of course using 3D models? We're very likely seeing a software that tracks the ongoing mission, where each part (Canadarm, payload) is supposed to be, etc. $\endgroup$
    – DarkDust
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 6:49
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    $\begingroup$ Not pushing conspiracy theories and I am not trolling, I am just looking for answers. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 7:30
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    $\begingroup$ That sounds better, thanks. Sorry, I am new here $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ And I am not necessarily looking to have an explanation to give my friend, I just wanted an explanation for my own understanding. I don't feel like that is a waste of my time. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 7:40
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    $\begingroup$ +1 It's a perfectly reasonable question, that's why we have the identify-this-object tag. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 7:45

1 Answer 1


That's generated by one of the Johnson Space Center robotics/EVA planning tools, called MAGIK (Manipulator Analysis-Graphic, Interactive, Kinematic).

Here is a screenshot of a MAGIK video used when we were working on the Docked Late Inspection failure response on STS-131:

screenshot from MAGIK video. There are four sub-pictures showing various camera and gods-eye views of the shuttle and ISS

(personal notes)

The small squares are views from different cameras and the large view in the lower right is a "God's-eye view".

Basically the tool is used when planning an operation to figure out the joint angles that will be used by the manipulator arms to achieve the mission goals while obeying all the restrictions such as joint angle limits, clearance-to-structure rules, availability of camera views, etc.

The tool and its use are described in ISS ROBOTICS ANALYSIS AND OPERATIONS although annoyingly, most of the pictures do not render in this paper. I had to scroll down to about page 20 to find one that worked. Also this paper is from 2002 and the graphics kept getting better, as you can see when I worked there in 2010 they were quite a bit better.

The NASA/Boeing Robotics Analysis Team’s purpose is to provide NASA with efficient and thorough analysis of robotic operations on the ISS, such as assembly operations, EVA/SSRMS tasks, operations viewing, Space Vision Systems (SVS) operations, and SSRMS capture and berthing. The team is called the MAGIK Team due to their main robotic kinematic analysis tool named MAGIK which stands for ...The team uses this tool almost exclusively to perform their main analysis task of investigating kinematic feasibility of the ISS RMS assembly operations.

A much older but more detailed description of MAGIK is here.

Current Space Station Applications

MAGIK can be used to analyze the kinematics of any space station robotic operational scenario. It serves as a proof- of-concept tool for planned robotic operations. Starting from engineering drawings, models can be built to the desired level of fidelity, manipulators can be accurately modeled kinematically, and man-in-the-loop simulations can be running within hours. The ability of engineers using MAGIK to answer the "what if or "is it possible to" questions - quickly and accurately - continues to amaze even those who are familiar with its capabilities.The following sections give examples of space station analyses that have been accomplished using MAGIK in the areas of robotic assembly and maintenance, simulated viewing, astronaut training facility test setup, dexterous manipulator tasks, control algorithm development and testing, collision detection, evolution concept evaluation, servicing facility functionality, and in-space assembly of large space vehicles.

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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh SGI made multiple purple machines: the main purple ones were the Indigo 2 1992-1997, the Octane2 (2000-2004) and the Tezro (2003-2006). Some photos online were taken with camera-flashes that make their purple cases look blue. $\endgroup$
    – Dai
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 0:28
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    $\begingroup$ Okay it would have been circa 1998 so it's the Indigo 2 I'm remembering. It was in a yellow light cleanroom area and who knows what that did to it's purple color; probably turned it indigo ;-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 0:36
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh Late in the lifespan of the Shuttle Mission Simulator its main computers were changed from Univac mainframes to Silicon Graphics machines, but I do not remember what kind. I do remember that the company (Silicon Graphics) went OOB soon after. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ @Dai I found a picture, they were Onyx 2 machines. imgur.com/a/QZEER7R Some of them say "Reality Monster" lol $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 1:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Dai we all got laid off when the shuttle program ended in 2011 :( $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 1:30

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