SurRender software

SurRender software


Image generation software for space exploration

Realistic image simulator in space applications

Exploring the far reaches of space requires highly precise mission preparations, and Airbus has developed image simulation software to support all development phases – from preliminary sizing and feasibility studies to validation and testing.

This software – called SurRender – is particularly useful for the development and testing of vision-based navigation techniques.

Continuously developed by Airbus Defence and Space since 2011, SurRender has been used in many projects, including the development and validation of image processing algorithms for the European JUICE mission (JUpiter ICy moons Explorer), which is planned for a 2022 launch to perform detailed observations of the solar system gas giant Jupiter and three of its largest moons. The simulator uniquely models specific physical effects that are crucial for computer vision algorithms. It is widely used by Airbus teams and it is at the heart of the development process for various space projects, from early prototyping, to extensive performance test campaigns and hardware-in-the loop experiments.

3D models of man-made objects can be simulated for Earthbound and satellite applications.

Key features of SurRender:

The software handles various space objects such as planets, asteroids, satellites and spacecraft.

It is capable of accommodating solar system-sized scenes without precision loss, and optimises the ray tracing process to explicitly target objects.

Physically-accurate images are produced with quantitative radiometric values, expressed in physical units (irradiance value per pixel in W.m-2, or spectral irradiance in W.m-2.Hz-1), and SurRender performs complete sensor modelling, including PSF, distortion, motion blur, electronic noises, rolling shutter, and other low-level detector effects.

Autonomous probes in the Solar System require realistic simulations.

Powerful and flexible simulation software

SurRender is highly flexible. Supported objects include digital elevation models (DEMs), meshed objects, and analytical shapes such as ellipsoids with local DEMs (planets).

All surface properties can be customised with user-specified reflectance models, textures and normal maps. Lambert, Hapke, and Oren-Nayar reflectance models are included by default.

Projective models can be customised as well. Proposed implementation configurations include pinhole model with or without distortions, pushbroom sensors, and scanning sensors. In addition, low-level electronic behaviour of detectors can be specified, including response non-uniformities, noises and acquisition modes (binning, windowing, rolling shutter, etc.)


The raytracing technique implements the physical principles of light propagation with a very high level of realism.

Physically-accurate images

SurRender is suited to various simulation setups and needs:

  • Fine image simulation with a ray tracer for the evaluation of algorithm performance and consolidation of sensor design,
  • Real-time image generation in OpenGL mode for real-time testing of on-board software, and
  • Camera emulation for electrical or optical stimulation of sensors.

Technical features

SurRender 7.0 was released in April 2021. It is available on Linux and includes new features and upgraded API. SurRender 6.3 is the latest public version for Windows. SurRender is a professional software and licenses can be granted for academic or commercial use. Feel free to contact us if you are interested in our product.

SurRender works with a client-server protocol (TCP/IP). The SurRender client Python interface is open-source. Users are encouraged to share their contributions on SurRender GitHub repositories:


Recommended minimal computing requirements:

OS: Linux or Windows, 64 bit

Processor: Quad-core desktop processor

Graphics card: NVIDIA GPU with 4 GBytes of dedicated video memory

RAM: 8 Gbytes

API: Python 3, Matlab, Simulink, C++, Java, lua

The performance will depend on scene complexity and required quality (e.g. real time vs algorithm training).

SurRender is parallelized and can be deployed in a cloud platform.



Technical presentation of SurRender capabilities      
A trip around the Solar System with the SurRender software      
The SurRender Software      


The SurRender software is a product developed by the Computer Vision team of Airbus Defence & Space SAS in France in support of Vision-Based Navigation activities.

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