Opportunity: Open-Source Satellite Constellation Simulator

Opening date: 18/05/2022
Closing date: 15/07/2022


The communications satellite manufacturing industry is going through a period of profound change. For decades, the primary source of sector revenue has been from building systems designed to operate in geostationary orbits. Within the last few years however, the dominant source of sector innovation and growth potential has been from systems developed for operation in Non-Geostationary Orbits (NGSO), both Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) and Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).

With the long history of progressive development in the Geostationary Orbit (GEO) sector, system-level design knowledge, and hence insight into future technology, component, and equipment requirements, has become widely accessible. Given the major commitment required to deploy global systems into LEO, strategic insight and understanding of new system design concepts, architectures, and topologies is now less readily available. With the shift of focus to NGSO systems, there is therefore a danger that access to a full system-level understanding of satcom systems will become the preserve of a few large companies: either established prime contractors, or well-funded (prospective) system operators.

An eco-system of technology, component, and equipment providers has developed across the ARTES participating states that successfully contribute to the realisation of sector innovation and growth by working through the relatively small number of existing Prime Contractors. To ensure that these companies continue to thrive and grow, and to allow the emergence of new technology providers, these companies require independent access to system-level design information and understanding. Such insight will help equipment and technology producers define their own strategic priorities and product development plans, and hence reduce their dependence on information from their own customers.

Whilst some system level design tools and simulators are already commercially available, their complexity is often beyond both the needs and reach of smaller, more focused, technology companies. In addition, most existing products do not allow for user customisation that would enable highly innovative elements to be simulated and validated. Smaller start-up initiatives and projects, especially those looking into either scalable or low-cost constellation systems, are also likely to find the initial financial commitment beyond their means.

Objectives of the Activity

The main goal of the proposed activity would therefore be to develop a system simulator software tool that allows users to simulate future NGSO system design concepts, and hence help an independent view of strategic technology development needs to emerge. The core tool functionality developed under this activity would include custom constellation definition (in terms of topology, number of satellites, and their orbits), subsequent orbit propagation, coverage and look-angle calculations, simple link budget analysis with example waveforms, and output visualisation.

Following on from the recent ARTES Future Preparation activity “The Application of Open-Source Development Methodologies to Satcom Systems”, the tool would be developed using an ‘open source’ philosophy such that once founded, additional functionalities could be developed by users in accordance with their own needs. Such augmentations might take the form of more sophisticated antenna pattern models, interference analysis, transponder characteristics, or new coding and modulation implementations. An important element of the activity would therefore be to encourage the establishment of a self-sustainable community of users that can make use of the tool, expand it via the creation and sharing of new modules, as well as maintain it. To that end, the activity would investigate a means whereby to host and share the tool (e.g., ESA GitLab, the European Space Software Repository (ESSR), space codev and others) and promote its use across the European space sector.

Given the predisposition for software developments to expand in scope and resource needs over time, the activity would be implemented via a phased contractual approach. The first phase would include a detailed survey to identify potential users of such a tool, understand and document their needs, and define requirements. Subsequently, a detailed assessment of the tool production and validation costs would be generated, as well as a proposal for the future hosting, distribution, promotion, and maintenance of the tool. Only if this phase can clearly identify the need for, and the users of, such a tool, define a robust cost envelope, and confirm how the tool would become self-sustaining, will a second phase be authorised.

Under the second phase, a first functional version of the tool would be produced to demonstrate its value and potential for the broader satcom community. This version would include the core functionalities required to simulate the fundamental performance parameters of an NGSO satcom system such as coverage analysis and link budgets. As a minimum, the simulator should include the following functionality:

  • Simulation of satellite systems using orbital mechanics propagators, allowing the selection of the best orbital parameters for a specific mission, and exploring potential system augmentations.
  • Coverage analysis and determination of revisit time statistics between space assets and ground antennas.
  • Simulation of realistic antenna beam patterns from provided antenna specifications.
  • Simulation of RF and optical communications link budget performance in dynamic mission environments, including interference analysis simulations.

The tool shall be made available to potential users from within the ARTES participating states via a suitable online platform, and efforts made to promote the creation and sharing of other modules. The activity would also include the generation of a user guide and a set of interactive tutorials for each of the modules that can be accessed by users. Finally, the activity should identify potential enhancements and improvements to the tool to improve its utility and usage.


We are looking for experts in the following fields:
A) Mission analysis / flight dynamics
B) Python software development
C) Machine learning/ optimisation.


The Invitation to Tender (ITT) is open from 18th of May 2022 for a period of 8 weeks.

Proposals can be submitted via esa-star (please find link below) until 15/07/2022 13:00:00


ARTES FP is a key programme element, in the beginning of the ARTES ‘feeding chain’ that offers the possibility to acquire knowledge on future satcom market perspectives, investigate future system concepts and prepare initial ‘dossiers’ on strategic initiatives; that cannot be developed usually at every Member State’s level. It is based on the concept of a European common effort to produce quality results to set the future of SatCom.

You can find more information in the link below:

Published 19 May 2022
Last updated at 19 May 2022 - 12:37