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The objectives of the PicUp3D project are to:

  • create a library of scientific numerical routines to perform spacecraft plasma interactions simulations in 3D;
  • provide this library free of charge to all potentially interested plasma modellers;
  • maintain and update the code via feedback from the users and a community of developers.
To reach these objectives, the PicUp3D library is based on a full 3D PIC particle model, written in the object-oriented Java language. It will be released progressively as an open source software under GPL license. Regular workshops are planned to train the users, test the software and update the upgrade and development plan of the code.

It is a first research prototype component in perspective of the next generation spacecraft charging code, the Spacecraft Plasma Interaction System (SPIS) project. The SPIS shall also include a framework for software co-development, a software library, a database of documentation and measurement to be developed via ESA R&D activities.

Development plan: The code is still under development but various modules will be released progressively under GPL license once they have reached enough maturity.

The foreseen packages are:

  • PlasmaBox is the package containing the complete 3D model of the plasma, including the Executable-Front-End PlasmaBox.
  • PicOlo3D is the executable front-end including the complete 3D model of the plasma, and a simplified rectangular shape spacecraft.
  • PicUp3D is the executable front-end including the complete 3D model of the plasma, and the mappers for computation on an arbitrary spacecraft shape.


The present codes and libraries are distributed under the GPL license version 2 and copyrighted by the Space Environment and Effects Analysis Section of the European Space Agency ESA-ESTEC/TOS-EMA, Noordwijk, The Netherlands, and the Swedish Institute of Space Physics IRF-K, Kiruna, Sweden 1999,2000,2001,2002.

The complete text of the GPL license version 2 in plain text can be found here.

Users Registration

User registration is not mandatory, however, although this code is relatively easy to use, the tuning of the input parameters and the interpretation of the results are often a delicate matter and require dedicated expertise. It is recommended to contact the institutes involved in the development. An easy way to get in contact and to be informed of the new developments of the code and planned meetings is to register as a user by sending an e-mail to


This project has been undertaken in the frame of the Spacecraft Plasma Interaction Network (SPINE) as a research prototype for the next generation open source Spacecraft Plasma Interaction Simulation software (SPIS project).

PicUp3D has been initiated at the Swedish Institute of Space Physics (IRF) through the ESA sponsored study (IPICSS, contract Nbr: 13590/99/NL/MV) and Umeå university Doctorand Student grant under the supervision of Dr L. Eliasson. It was further extended at CETP (France) under supervision from J.-J. Berthelier and H. de Feraudy through a CNES grant and at ESA/TEC-EES under supervision from A. Hilgers.

Please refer to the Publication List for making reference to the relevant publications.

Development team:

Technical Information: Required hardware/OS and JVM configuration

PicUp3D is written in Java language (1.2) and can be run on almost all kind of computer. However, PicUp3D has been developed and mainly tested on a PC running under Linux operating system (Suse 7.1) and many shell scripts and makefiles are optimized for this configuration.

For realistic runs, the minimum configuration is a 600MHz PC with 256Mb of RAM and a few tens of Mb of disk. But for large simulations (e.g. 120^3 grid and 6.10^6 particles). It is recommended to run PicUp3D on a PC with 1GHz CPU, 1Gb of RAM at least and about 30 Mb disk space for the data post-processing (large amount of data can be expected), under Linux Suse. The code, as all PIC codes, is very memory consuming. For this reason, it is recommended in the choice of hardware to put more priority on the memory than on the CPU speed.

The performances are strongly depending of the Java Virtual Machine used. Under Linux, the IBM JVM seems to give the best performances. Under Windows, the best performance seems to be obtained with SUN Hotspot. Under Linux, it is possible to compile in native codes the simulation kernel with gcc 3.0 (gclic6 required) and obtain better performances. All tools used for the development are GPL based or freely accessible.


Although every attempt has been made to provide accurate and error-free software, the authors and Intellectual property right owners make no warranty, express or implied, for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the software provided. Further, they assume no legal liability or responsibility whatsoever, for any damage or loss users may sustain as a result of using it. In no event shall the authors or Intellectual property right owners be liable for any special, indirect, or consequential damages, or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data, or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence, or other tortious action, or any action whatsoever, arising out of, or in connection with, the use or performance of this software. The authors and the Intellectual property right owners make no representations about the suitability of this software for any purpose; users use this software entirely at their own risk.

User Registration

To access to the software, a user registration to the SPINE community is mandatory. Please follow the link SPINE Community registration form. If you have already an account, please go to the Login page.

Last edited by Zorin at Dec 7, 2010 4:51 PM - Edit content