Setting up Cosmographia to run SPICE data is relatively simple, however poorly documented process. This visual guide is designed to make it as simple as plain and obvious, hopefully opening ESA’s SPICE data to wider audience, not just Industry professionals. Therefore this guide will be following an installation on Windows.


There are 4 elements (also labeled on a screenshots) you have to download in order to run the simulation:

  1. Cosmographia itself
  2. Zipped package – these are the JSON definition files that Cosmographia uses to know what is inside of the SPICE kernels
  3. SPICE Kernels – files that contain data describing the entire mission

First two are available on ESA’s Cosmographia website:

SPICE kernels are available on the same website under Missions -> JUICE, direct URL is

Keep in mind that SPICE kernels are very large, at the time of writing this tutorial kernels for JUICE were 1.82 GB in total.
Basic download of SPICE Kernels
SPICE Kernels are available to download under a public FTP server. All you have to do is copy & paste URL to the SPICE repository into your FTP client (for JUICE it’s Download files into C:\SPICEkernels\2017\ – that’s the directory we’ll use further down in this tutorial.
Illustrated download of SPICE kernels in FileZilla
Below you can find screenshots of the whole operation. Copy link location to the JUICE SPICE repository (it’s, run FileZilla, paste the link into Host window, click Quickconnect. Once connection is established in a left field open C:\SPICEkernels\2017\, select all directories from the right window, drag & drop them to the left side, and wait until everything is downloaded.


Once all the files are downloaded we can begin with installation of Cosmographia. Run cosmo-installer-3.0-windows.exe and install the application. You do not need any Extras, so leave these unchecked during the setup. Don’t run Cosmographia once installation is completed.

Next step is to extract JSON definition files that we will be opening with Cosmographia. For the sake of simplicity in this example we’ll extract content of the Zipped package ( into C:\SPICEkernels\Cosmographia\. Once archive is extracted you’ll have to edit the file \kernels\ – it’s a standard text file, can be opened it any plain text editor, such as ConTEXT or Notepad++ (Do not edit this file with Windows Notepad as the file is using non-windows line breaks, which are not respected by Notepad). Inside of that file you’ll have to change PATH_VALUES to:

Here is where to find it inside of the file:

PATH_VALUES = ( '/Users/mcosta/Dropbox/SPICE/SPICE_JUICE/ftp/data/SPICE/JUICE/kernels' )

Running simulation

We’re ready to run the simulation. Open Cosmographia, pick File -> Open Catalog

File -> Open Catalog Ctrl+O

Go to C:\SPICEkernels\Cosmographia\scenarios\ and open file load_JUICE_crema_3_1_001.json – that’s the most basic scenario which shows JUICE flying through the solar system and then around the Moons of Jupiter.

To make it clearer, make sure that planet orbits are visible under Guides menu:

Guides -> Planets Orbits Ctrl+Z
JUICE is not yet visible because by default Cosmographia will open current date, while spacecraft begins its mission on 2022 May 31 23:59:59, so set the date to June 2022 by clicking on a white clock icon on the left hand menu (note that Cosmographia will use your local language settings for name of the months):
Time Control, 2022 June 07

Basic controls in Cosmographia are as follows:

Left mouse button
rotate around current point of focus
Right mouse button
look around (for beginners I’d advise against using it)
Double click
change point of focus and go to it
cancel current movement
Mouse scroll down
zoom out
Mouse scroll up
zoom in
If you cannot find JUICE, use search function. Click white loupe icon in a left-hand menu, type in “JUICE”, and press “Go To” button. You’ll be automatically navigated to the spacecraft and zoomed in (to better find spacecraft location in the solar system you’ll have to outzoom quite a bit).
Find Object - JUICE

Final notes

You are now ready to play with solar system simulation that will display the entire span of the mission. Keep in mind that over time both: SPICE data and JSON files will be updated by ESA as they plan new observations and make these visualizations available to public.


Error loading kernel: ‘(…)../kernels/’

PATH_VALUES inside of the indicated .tm file is not pointing to the directory that contains SPICE data.

Error Item ‘JUICE_SWI’: Unknown instrument ‘JUICE_SWI’ for SPICE Sensor.

At the time of writing this article that error appears after opening load_JUICE_crema_3_1_all_sensors_001.json, it’s due to the issue with files provided, and it doesn’t affect working of the simulation. It will simply display all the instruments but the one that errored (in this case: SWI – Sub-millimeter Wave Instrument)

Cosmographia JUICE mission, all instruments