The purpose of VTS is to animate satellites in 2D or 3D environments. The architecture of VTS has been designed as an extensible platform, able to work with an unlimited number of compatible applications. VTS is a free software from CNES.
The first part of VTS is the configuration tool. This application is used to define elements of the visualization scene: 3D models, satellite geometries, mobile parts, data sources for position, attitude, rotation angle, etc. It allows configuration of ground stations, onboard sensors, etc. Client applications participating in the visualization session are also defined here. VTS then uses this configuration to start the animation.
After starting the clients, another VTS component operates the synchronization protocol. Through this central element, called Broker, users can control the time, use predefined cameras, display information, etc.
The architecture of VTS is designed to allow connected applications to take control of the time flow in the visualization. This way, VTS can be driven by a simulator, a plotting application, etc. Data, such as satellite position or orientation, can be read from constant values, from files, or from the network. The data file format, which has been defined according to the CIC protocol, is based on the CCSDS specification, facilitating interoperability with all software dealing with the European standard.
Out of the box, VTS comes with Celestia as its main 3D visualization tool. Celestia is an open source space visualization software, widely recognized for its performance and its graphical quality. All of Celestia’s features are available for VTS users. VTS also offers a 2D view application. Other compatible applications include PrestoPlot, a powerful plotting application.
With these characteristics, VTS becomes a helpful tool for all activities implying space data. It can be used as a graphical validation method, as an educational tool, or as a communication support for all exchanges between space experts.