Copernicus, a generalized spacecraft trajectory design and optimization system, is capable of solving a wide range of trajectory problems such as planet or moon centered trajectories, libration point trajectories, planet-moon transfers and tours, and all types of interplanetary and asteroid/comet missions.
- April 13, 2015: Copernicus Version 4.1 is now available. This update includes a new plugin architecture to enable extending Copernicus with user-created algorithms. It also includes a new Python interface, as well as various other new features and bug fixes.
- August 13, 2014: Copernicus Version 4.0 is now available. This is an update to version 3.1, which was released in June 2012. The new release includes many new features, bug fixes, performance and stability improvements, as well as a redesigned GUI, a new user guide, and full compatibility with Windows 7. The update is recommended for all Copernicus users.
The Copernicus Project started at the University of Texas at Austin in August 2001. In June 2002, a grant from the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) was used to develop the first prototype which was completed in August 2004. In the interim, support was also received from NASA's In Space Propulsion Program and from the Flight Dynamics Vehicle Branch of Goddard Spaceflight Center. The first operational version was completed in March 2006 (v1.0). The initial development team consisted of Dr. Cesar Ocampo and graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. Since March 2007, primary development of Copernicus has been at the Flight Mechanics and Trajectory Design Branch of JSC.
Copernicus Project Lead: Jerry Condon
Current Developers: Jacob Williams, Dr. Cesar Ocampo, David Lee
Former Developers: Dr. Juan Senent, Elizabeth Davis, Ravi Mathur, Fady Morcos
The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 and a series of subsequent legislation recognized transfer of federally owned or originated technology to be a national priority and the mission of each Federal agency. The legislation specifically mandates that each Federal agency have a formal technology transfer program, and take an active role in transferring technology to the private sector and state and local governments for the purposes of commercial and other application of the technology for the national benefit. In accordance with NASA's obligations under mandating legislation, JSC makes Copernicus available free of charge to other NASA centers, government contractors, and universities, under the terms of a US government purpose license. Organizations interested in obtaining Copernicus should contact:
For Copernicus-based analysis requests or specific Copernicus modifications that would support your project, please contact Gerald L. Condon (email@example.com) at the NASA Johnson Space Center.
The current version of Copernicus is 4.1 (released March 25, 2015).
- JSC Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office - Generalized Methodology for Designing Spacecraft Trajectories
- OpenFrames - Real-time interactive 3D graphics API for scientific simulations
- In-Space Propulsion Technologies Program - Low Thrust Trajectory Tool Development
- Copernicus Trajectory Design and Optimization System - Future In-Space Operations (FISO) Working Group Presentation
- Internal JSC Copernicus Site (account required)
Publications about Copernicus:
- C. A. Ocampo, "An Architecture for a Generalized Trajectory Design and Optimization System", Proceedings of the International Conference on Libration Points and Missions, June, 2002.
- C. A. Ocampo, "Finite Burn Maneuver Modeling for a Generalized Spacecraft Trajectory Design and Optimization System", Annals of the New York Academy of Science, May 2004.
- C. A. Ocampo, J. Senent, "The Design and Development of Copernicus: A Comprehensive Trajectory Design and Optimization System", Proceedings of the International Astronautical Congress, 2006. IAC-06-C1.4.04.
- R. Mathur, C. A. Ocampo, "An Architecture for Incorporating Interactive Visualizations into Scientific Simulations", Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, Feb. 2007.
- C. A. Ocampo, J. S. Senent, J. Williams, "Theoretical Foundation of Copernicus: A Unified System for Trajectory Design and Optimization", 4th International Conference on Astrodynamics Tools and Techniques, May 2010.
- J. Williams, J. S. Senent, C. A. Ocampo, R. Mathur, "Overview and Software Architecture of the Copernicus Trajectory Design and Optimization System", 4th International Conference on Astrodynamics Tools and Techniques, May 2010.
- J. Williams, J. S. Senent, D. E. Lee, "Recent Improvements to the Copernicus Trajectory Design and Optimization System", Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, 2012.
Some studies that have used Copernicus:
- C. L. Ranieri, C. A. Ocampo, "Optimization of Roundtrip, Time-Constrained, Finite Burn Trajectories via an Indirect Method", Journal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics, Vol. 28, No. 2, March-April 2005.
- T. Polsgrove, L. Kos, R. Hopkins, T. Crane, "Comparison of Performance Predictions for New Low-Thrust Trajectory Tools", AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, August, 2006.
- L. D. Kos, T. P. Polsgrove, R. C. Hopkins, D. Thomas and J. A. Sims, "Overview of the Development for a Suite of Low-Thrust Trajectory Analysis Tools", AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, August, 2006.
- M. Garn, M. Qu, J. Chrone, P. Su, C. Karlgaard, "NASA’s Planned Return to the Moon: Global Access and Anytime Return Requirement Implications on the Lunar Orbit Insertion Burns", AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference and Exhibit, August, 2008.
- R. B. Adams, "Near Earth Object (NEO) Mitigation Options Using Exploration Technologies", Asteroid Deflection Research Symposium, Oct. 2008.
- J. Gaebler, R. Lugo, E. Axdahl, P. Chai, M. Grimes, M. Long, R. Rowland, A. Wilhite, "Reusable Lunar Transportation Architecture Utilizing Orbital Propellant Depots", AIAA SPACE 2009 Conference and Exposition, September 2009.
- J. Williams, E. C. Davis, D. E. Lee, G. L. Condon, T. F. Dawn, "Global Performance Characterization of the Three Burn Trans-Earth Injection Maneuver Sequence over the Lunar Nodal Cycle", Advances in the Astronautical Sciences, Vol. 135, 2010. AAS 09-380
- J. Williams, S. M. Stewart, D. E. Lee, E. C. Davis, G. L. Condon, T. F. Dawn, J. Senent, "The Mission Assessment Post Processor (MAPP): A New Tool for Performance Evaluation of Human Lunar Missions", 20th AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechanics Meeting, Feb. 2010.
- J. W. Dankanich, L. M. Burke, J. A. Hemminger, "Mars sample return Orbiter/Earth Return Vehicle technology needs and mission risk assessment", 2010 IEEE Aerospace Conference, March 2010.
- A. V. Ilin, L. D. Cassady, T. W. Glover, M. D. Carter, F. R. Chang Diaz, "A Survey of Missions using VASIMR for Flexible Space Exploration", Ad Astra Rocket Company, Document Number JSC-65825, April 2010.
- J. W. Dankanich, B. Vondra, A. V. Ilin, "Fast Transits to Mars Using Electric Propulsion", 46th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit, July 2010.
- S. R. Oleson, M. L. McGuire, L. Burke, J. Fincannon, T. Colozza, J. Fittje, M. Martini, T. Packard, J. Hemminger, J. Gyekenyesi, "Mars Earth Return Vehicle (MERV) Propulsion Options", 46th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit, July 2010, AIAA 2010-6795.
- J. S. Senent, "Fast Calculation of Abort Return Trajectories for Manned Missions to the Moon", AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, August 2010.
- D. S. Cooley, K. F. Galal, K. Berry, L. Janes, G. Marr. J. Carrico. C. Ocampo, "Mission Design for the Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)", AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, August, 2010.
- A. V. Ilin, L. D. Cassady, T. W. Glover, F. R. Chang Diaz, "VASIMR Human Mission to Mars", Space, Propulsion & Energy Sciences International Forum, March 15-17, 2011.
- J. Brophy, F. Culick, L. Friedman, et al., “Asteroid Retrieval Feasibility Study,” Technical Report, Keck Institute for Space Studies, California Institute of Technology, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, April 2012.
- A. V. Ilin, "Low Thrust Trajectory Analysis (A Survey of Missions using VASIMR for Flexible Space Exploration - Part 2), Ad Astra Rocket Company, Document Number JSC-66428, June 2012.
- P. R. Chai, A. W. Wilhite, "Station Keeping for Earth-Moon Lagrangian Point Exploration Architectural Assets", AIAA SPACE 2012 Conference & Exposition, September, 2012, AIAA 2012-5112.
- F. R. Chang Diaz, M. D. Carter, T. W. Glover, A. V. Ilin, C. S. Olsen, J. P. Squire, R. J. Litchford, N. Harada, S. L. Koontz, "Fast and Robust Human Missions to Mars with Advanced Nuclear Electric Power and VASIMR Propulsion", Proceedings of Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space, Feb. 2013. Paper 6777.
- J. Williams, "Trajectory Design for the Asteroid Redirect Crewed Mission", JSC Engineering, Technology and Science (JETS) Contract Technical Brief JETS-JE23-13-AFGNC-DOC-0014, July, 2013.
- J.P. Gutkowski, T.F. Dawn, R.M. Jedrey, "Trajectory Design Analysis over the Lunar Nodal Cycle for the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) Exploration Mission 2 (EM-2)", Advances in the Astronautical Sciences Guidance, Navigation and Control, Vol. 151, 2014. AAS 14-096.
- R. G. Merrill, M. Qu, M. A. Vavrina, C. A. Jones, J. Englander, "Interplanetary Trajectory Design for the Asteroid Robotic Redirect Mission Alternate Approach Trade Study", AIAA/AAS Astrodynamics Specialist Conference, 2014. AIAA 2014-4457.