User Guide

Startup Panel

When starting up the Vizard software the user is presented with a resolution and graphics setting option panel as shown above. There is an option on the lower portion of this panel to turn off this plane on start-up and only show it if the program is started while pressing the option key. Note that the Vizard screen size can be dynamically changed after startup as well.


Next Vizard presents a panel where the user can select which simulation to visualize. To play back a previously recorded BSK simulation press the Select button and navigate to the binary BSK recording file. After a file has been selected press the Start Visualization button.


To live stream data from a running Basilisk simulation to Vizard make sure that the connection type is DirectComm and the mode is Live Streaming. When starting a Basilisk script that uses live streaming (see scenarioBasicOrbitStream) the socket address, such as tcp://localhost:5556, is shown in the terminal window. Copy this and paste it into the Vizard socket address text field. Finally press the Start Visualization button to begin the visualization.

View Modes

To engage with the visualization, the view point can be rotated and the user can zoom in and out. There are three view modes available:

  • Spacecraft-Centric View Mode (default): Here the spacecraft is drawn 1:1 while showing other celestial objects about it. When rotating the center of the spacecraft is the center of rotation. The spacecraft trajectory is not shown in this view. You can zoom in and out locally, but if you zoom out too far then the view mode switched to a planet-centric view mode.

  • Planet-Centric View Mode: Here a planet-wide view is presented. When rotating the view point this is about with the center of the planet as the center of rotation. The spacecraft trajectory is shown. The spacecraft is drawn at an exaggerated size so it is visible as a 3D object in this view. To return to a spacecraft-centric view mode double click on the spacecraft. If you zoom out far enough then the mode switches to a heliocentric view.

  • Heliocentric View Mode: Here a solar system wide view is shown. The planets are drawn enlarged to make them visible, and the planet trajectories are shown as well. If the spacecraft is orbiting a planet it is not visible in this view. If the spacecraft is on a heliocentric trajectory it is shown, also enlarged, in this view. Double clicking on a planet returns the user to a planet-centric view.

Space Vehicle States

The following sections describe the basic user interface elements of Vizard. Some settings can be set via a Basilisk script as described in the BSK Scripting Settings.

Basic Position and Orientation

Vizard is able to show the position and orientation of the spacecraft being simulated. If one or more planets are being modeled, then the spacecraft is show relative to the nearest planet.

Reaction Wheel States

If Reaction Wheels or RWs are modeled, then a RW panel can be opened from within the Actuator menu bar item. Here the RW wheel speeds and motor torques are shown.


Thruster States

If thrusters are being simulated then a range of visualizations can be enables within the Actuator menu item. The options include to open a Thruster Panel which shows the thruster firings as bar charts. The thruster HUD uses a particle engine to illustrate if a thruster is firing. Here the length and density of the particles is related to the strength and duty cycle of the thruster. The thruster geometry option draws small cones where the thrusters are modeled to be. This is useful when debugging that a thruster configuration is being properly modeled. Finally, the thruster normals option illustrates the thrust axes being modeled.


Vizard Configuration Options

View Menu Item

The View menu tab contains a range of Vizard options. A range of coordinate frames can be toggled on or off.


Add Pointing Vector

This allows a line to be drawn from the spacecraft aimed at another celestial body such as the sun, a planet, etc. The spacecraft location is referred to as “Inertial”. The purpose of these lines is to have a quick visual reference in what direction another body is located. The lines can be hidden or removed as needed. Some celestial bodies come with default colors such as yellow for sun heading, or red for Mars heading, etc. However, each line color can be customized as needed.


Add Keep Out/In Cone

This feature allows for a cone to be added relative to the spacecraft which indicates if a cone about a particular body-fixed axis intersects with a celestial object. For example, this can be used to add a cone to validate that the sensor axis doesn’t get too close to the sun (keep out cone), or if the solar panel normal axis stays within some cone to the sun (keep in cone). If the cone in/out condition is not triggered, then the cone is opaque. If the in/out condition is triggered, then the cone becomes solid.


Adjust Brightness

This option allows the user to increase or decrease the ambient lighting of the Vizard Simulation.

Model Inventory Panel

If you want to see to the Vizard space object model inventory panel, then select View/Model Inventory as illustrated in the following image:


Camera Menu Item

The Camera menu item allows for custom camera views to be created into the visualization. The first item called Changed Main Camera Target brings up a list of simulation objects that can be made the focus of the simulation camera window. This makes it easy to switch between an Earth-centric and a spacecraft centric simulation point of view.

Note that the Camera menu list contains 2 default camera options that can be turned on. Selecting either camera 1 or camera 2 will open a stand-alone camera view as shown below. Finally, if more camera views are required, these can be added with the Add Camera menu option. Within a camera panel the user can select from which object the camera is simulated, and where this camera is pointing. Below the camera is selected to point camera along a body fixed vector.


In this second illustration the camera is chosen to point toward another simulation object such as the Earth. Here the user can select to point the camera at the target (nadir), along the velocity direction (along-track) or orbit-normal,.


If you press the snap shot icon on the lower right of the camera panel, then the camera view is captured and stored as a PNG image within the user’s home directory.

Import a Custom Shape Model

When Vizard starts up it represents the spacecraft using a default CAD model called bsk-Sat. The following section illustrates how this default spacecraft model can be replaced with with a custom CAD model in an .obj file format, or by using a built-in shape primitive.


Vizard starts up showing a default spacecraft shape. To select a different shape, a custom CAD model can be imported using the OBJ file format. Go to the File menu and select Import OBJ Model:


Next, select the OBJ file that is to be imported into Vizard.


The next panel allows the CAD model import to be customized. The user can modify the origin offset, the CAD orientation and the CAD scaling. The latter is useful to convert the CAD model into meters used by Vizard. The model center and model extrema information is provided as a convenient. A bounding box can also be draw as a convenient to make sure this is correctly configured. Note that if a model is to be applied for each simulation instance, then see how createCustomModel() can be configured to script this OBJ import process as illustrated in BSK Scripting Settings.


At this point a panel appears that allows you select the object for which you want to apply a new shape, and what shape you want to apply. When ready, press Apply Models to Selected Objects to apply the custom space object shape. Note that instead of an OBJ file a custom shape can also be selected such as a sphere, cylinder or cube.


Advanced Options

File/Compress Messages Option

This option will compress the number of stored vizMessages from the current run. This feature is especially useful during multi-day live streaming simulation runs when the number of saved Module: vizInterface can grow too large for the app to continue running.

Selecting this option brings up a settings panel that allows the user to specify how many messages should be retained. For example, if the user opts to retain 1/2 stored messages, Vizard will delete every other message in the Module: vizInterface dictionary, reducing the Vizard memory footprint.


Compression can be applied when running the Vizard from a Module: vizInterface archive file or when live streaming. Please note that the compression cannot be reversed, but that the archive file, if in use, will not be changed.