OpenIGS is a visual simulation framework for integrating various heterogeneous components such as visualisation and simulation systems into a single unified environment. OpenIGS was developed for the European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in cooperation with DutchSpace.


OpenIGS (Open Image Generation System) was originally intended as an opensource alternative to the high-end visualisation software packages that were being used around the turn of the century. The original incarnation of OpenIGS (simply IGS) was developed for the European Robotic Arm (ERA) Mission Planning and Training Eqipment (MPTE) to provide 3D visualization linked to EuroSim. IGS was based on SGI Performer, Paradigm Vega and ran only on a Silicon Graphics Onyx Reality Engine. The "open" nature of OpenIGS was intended to prevent vendor lock-in present in IGS and also allow projects using OpenIGS to pick and choose what features they wanted to include.

While these concepts are still the foundation behind OpenIGS, the concept of OpenIGS has been greatly generalized so as to encompass functionality other than strictly visualization and connection to a simulator. The second generation of OpenIGS also provides a more robust architecture allowing for the easier and non-intrusive integration of plugin Modules, which provide the functionality within an OpenIGS-based application. At the core of OpenIGS are the reflection, linking, and conversion mechanism which allows standard C++ class objects to communicate with each other in a decoupled manner.


The OpenIGS kernel provides the infrastructure for loading class libraries and connecting instances of these classes together. The real application level functionality comes from the plugin Modules, which are simply normal C++ classes which have been wrapped with the OpenIGS reflection API. The OpenIGS distribution comes with a number of standard Modules which provide the basic functionality to create a 3D visualization with a 2D user interface and connect them to a simulator. It should be emphasized however that while these standard modules are based on a particular software library, this dependence is isolated only to that particular Module or grop of Modules (Package). Application developers are free to pick and choose which Modules to use and even which implementation to use (if another exists) thereby reducing the dependency of an application and even other Modules on a particular software library

  • Qt

    Graphical User Interface

    Qt-based Graphical User Interface Module:

  • OpenSceneGraph

    3D Graphics/SceneGraph

    OpenSceneGraph based 3D Graphics Module:

  • EuroSim

    EuroSim External Simulator Access

    EuroSim external simulator access client interface Module:

Target Market


Road Map

Cesium is currently finalizing the details of an extended maintenance period with Estec. During this time, Cesium Solutions will maintain and distribute OpenIGS as well as provide some minor new development. There is planned to be one major release a year which includes updates to newer versions of external dependencies, and one minor release in between the major releases. Between these releases informal patch releases will be available as needed. OpenIGS is also a prime candidate as the initial test project for the ESA Open Source Software Repository Initiative.

Major new development of OpenIGS-based functionality however will be developed through the Saccades product. This development will be mainly in the development of new Modules and the extension of existing Modules and will be mainly driven by projects and customer demand.


The standard OpenIGS software was developed under contract to Estec and is the intellectual property of Estec. The source code is licensed under a modified open source license which means it is free to member states of the European Space Agency. For more information about licensing and obtaining a distribution of OpenIGS as a member of the ESA community you may contact Peter v.d. Plas at Estec.

For organizations outside of the ESA member states, a commercial version of OpenIGS called Saccades is available for license from Cesium Solutions.

  • OpenIGS Rosetta

    New viewer with Rosetta and Comet 67P.

  • OpenIGS Solar System

    Standard viewer loaded with the sample Solar System scene.

  • OpenIGS Saturn

    Standard viewer with Saturn. Inset Cassini approach (courtesy of NASA). Note that high-definition lighting and shadowing effects had not been implemented (yet).

  • OpenIGS GGNCSim

    Standard viewer with EuroSim connected to GGNC Simulator.

  • OpenIGS Command Editor

    Command Editor component.

  • OpenIGS Database Visualizer

    Database Visualizer component.

  • OpenIGS Property Editor

    Property Editor component.

  • EuroSim controls.