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=> Automatically Design Your Aircraft
=> Visualize YOUR Aircraft Sizing Results with NASA's Vehicle Sketch Pad (OpenVSP)

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Please check out the OpenVSP-Connect Hangar
Please read about OpenVSP-Connect 3D Visualization


Table of Contents

Abstract, Demonstration, Software, Method, Teaching, Publications, Download, Learning, Comparison (Version 2 / 3)



Aircraft preliminary sizing tools need a 3D visualization to show results. NASA’s Open Vehicle Sketch Pad (OpenVSP) has 3D visualization capabilities, is easy to use, but unfortunately lacks an interface to input consistently calculated aircraft parameters. Such an interface has been programmed with Excel and is called OpenVSP-Connect. Aircraft are sketched from about 50 parameters. These are converted to more than 3500 parameters to make up an OpenVSP input file (*.vsp). Just two input parameters are sufficient to get started in OpenVSP-Connect's "automatic mode": cruise Mach number and number of passengers.



logo X3D x3dom The Airbus A320 has been modeled merely from a few parameters found at Wikipedia with OpenVSP-Connect. OpenVSP-Connect adds "expert" default data and converts to the OpenVSP Version 2 parametric aircraft data format (*.vsp). The plot on the right is a resulting screen shot taken inside OpenVSP. OpenVSP supports export of its parametric 3D aircraft data to the X3D standard. X3D files (*.x3d) can be displayed on the Internet embedded in HTML as shown on the left. The HTML-internal viewer X3DOM was selected. This allows to share 3D aircraft design results, without any software requirements at the recipient, besides an Internet connection and a suitable browser. If you see the aircraft on the left, your browser is suitable. Fortunately, almost all browsers are suitable browsers. How you can share YOUR own aircraft design results in 3D, I explain on OpenVSP-Connect 3D Visualization. pin

       A320 sketched with OpenVSP

MOUSE                                      KEYBOARD
---------------------------------------    --------------------------------------
left                          : rotate     a: top view
left and alt / right / scroll : zoom       r: revert to last button select view
left and ctrl / middle        : pan        d: debug mode (end: ctrl r in browser)                             
                                           f,g,h,l,u,w: special (do not use)      
double click: define center of rotation    a,e        : back to normal 
Please go to the OpenVSP-Connect Hangar pin to check out more of our aircraft in X3D and other input and output data formats. Before you go, make sure you understand how to manipulate the X3D images under X3DOM with mouse and keyboard.




A320 sketched with OpenVSP


OpenVSP-Connect started as an interface tool between ANY aircraft design tool and Open Vehicle Sketch Pad (OpenVSP) from NASA. An Excel-based interface file format is defined for the exchange of aircraft sizing data. A file with the defined file format can also be used just to store aircraft model data efficiently and independent of the OpenVSP-Connect file/program. OpenVSP-Connect is an Excel file with macros (called OpenVSP-Connect.xlsm) and connects to OpenVSP for the display of the aircraft.

In the order of 50 core parameters of the aircraft are used to calculate more than 3500 input parameters required for the OpenVSP file of type *.vsp to sketch a passenger aircraft. For each of the core parameters a proposed value is given in the user interface and automatically applied as long as the user does not specify his/her own value. This is a fundamental principle of the program: The user is never left alone with an empty data input field. White input fields (on the left of the screen) are always filled with a proposed value (calculated on the right of the screen). See Screen Shot for details. The calculation is based on aircraft design expert knowledge: standard aircraft design equations, aircraft design statistical equations, geometric considerations, and common sense. Documentation of this is included in the download. Experienced users of OpenVSP-Connect have the possibility to shape the expert proposal by setting related factors or to supply another value all together. Many cells have attached comments (note the red triangle in the corner of the cell) to give further guidance.

Using all default values, the program works in "automatic mode". The calculation is then based on just two input values cruise Mach number and number of passengers. Other input parameters that can be considered a fundamental design selection are: engine type, number of engines, cowling cover percentage, number of blades, wing type (trapezoidal or double-trapezoidal), wing aspect ratio, vertical position of wing (in % with respect to the fuselage height), vertical position of the horizontal tail (in % with respect to the vertical tail height), dorsal fin (yes/no). These parameters should be changed by the novice user to get some feel for aircraft design and to realize first design ideas. The aircraft automatically drawn as such in OpenVSP may not satisfy in all aspects. For this reason, the user should go back to OpenVSP-Connect to change input parameters in an iterative manner until a satisfactory, good looking aircaft results in the OpenVSP 3D visualization.

Subsequently, the user may want to continue with further refinements of the model in OpenVSP. Do you want to add winglets? Do you want to change the shape of the fuselage? All such things - and much more - can be done in OpenVSP Version 2.

logo OpenVSP OpenVSP Version 2 may also be used to analyse the aircraft model. The tools are found under the "Geom" menue:

In addition to Version 2, extended analysis features from OpenVSP Version 3 may be used: zero-lift drag / parasite drag, wave drag, projected area - and most importantly, CFD with VSPAERO. VSPAERO includes primarily a Vortex Lattice Method (VLM) and a secondly a Panel Method (PM). It comes along with a written tutorial and a video introduction. VSPAERO was released in 2015. Interesting is its ability to included also the influence of propeller and jet propulsion on the flow by adding an actuator disk in the propeller area or into the jet duct. Many improvements have been made to VSPAERO and its integration up to the present day.

Unfortunately, a Version 2 model experiences some conversion losses, when imported into OpenVSP Version 3. Luckily, fuselage, wing, and tail will survive the conversion. Lost are the engines, propellers, and (indication of) the landing gear. The pylon (on jet aircraft) survices, but should probably be deleted. What you are left with is exactly what you really need - a simple geometry suitable to start the extended analysis features of OpenVSP Version 3 inlcuding CFD with VSPAERO. If you do not need these extended analysis features from Version 3, just stay with Version 2.



OpenVSP-Connect is part of the lecture Aircraft Design at Hamburg Open Online University and Aircraft Design / Flugzeugentwurf at HAW Hamburg. Furthermore, it is used in the Short Course Aircraft Design. In these lectures it helps students to get started with the topic Aircraft Design when they read Chapter 4 "Aircraft Configurations". The "Automatic Mode" from OpenVSP-Connect is helpful at this level.

As the lecture progresses, other tools are introduced. It starts with Chapter 5: Preliminary Sizing, where the Preliminary Sizing Tool: PreSTo-Classic is introduced. This module and others from the PreSTo Program Suite will lead to an ever more refined aircraft definition. At the end of each step is the necessity to visualize the resulting aircraft with OpenVSP-Connect! Now, the nature of aircraft design is to work with various tools forming a tool chain, as explained also at SAS - Simple Aircraft Sizing. This goes on to sophisticated aircraft design tools at PhD level. Have a look at OPerA - Optimization in Preliminary Aircraft Design. You may also look at the research project Airport2030, where the "Optimization of Propeller Aircraft" led to a PhD. We understand: The need to visualize aircraft design results (with or without OpenVSP-Connect) is a necessity at every step.



A presentation was made in 2013 at the co-located conference / workshop CEAS 2013 / EWADE 2013. The presentation was registered under EWADE but shifted by the program committee into the CEAS session "5.7 Aircraft Design Methods and Tools II".

item The presentation quoted as an EWADE 2013 contribution:

SCHOLZ, Dieter; SOUSA, Tahir: OpenVSP-Connect - Visualize YOUR Aircraft Sizing Results with NASA's Vehicle Sketch Pad. In: SCHOLZ, Dieter (Ed.): Proceedings of the 11th European Workshop on Aircraft Design Education (16.-19. September 2013, Linköping, Sweden). - URL:

item The presentation quoted as CEAS 2013 contribution without paper in the proceedings:

SCHOLZ, Dieter; SOUSA, Tahir: OpenVSP-Connect – Visualize YOUR Aircraft Sizing Results with NASA's Vehicle Sketch Pad. (4th CEAS Air & Space Conference, 16.-19. September 2013, Linköping, Sweden) : Presentation. - Download:

*.pdf OpenVSP_PRE_CEAS_2013_OpenVSP-Connect_2013-09-16.pdf     Size:  2.4M

item A presentation was made at the I-DAD Conference, Vel Tech Technical University, Chennai, India, 2016. Subsequently, a paper was published at Springer:

RAMACHANDRAN, Karunanidhi; SCHOLZ, Dieter: PreSTo Wing Module Optimization for the Double Trapezoidal Wing. In: BAJPAI, Ram P.; CHANDRASEKHAR U.: Innovative Design and Development Practices in Aerospace and Automotive Engineering, Lecture Notes in Mechanical Engineering, I-DAD, February 22 - 24, 2016. Singapor : Springer, 2017. - ULR:, Download:

*.pdf RAMACHANDRAN-SCHOLZ-2016_OptimizationForTheDoubleTrapezoidalWing_IDAD-Springer.pdf     Size:  212K



OpenVSP-Connect is a project by Aircraft Design and Systems Group (AERO) at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW Hamburg). The program is made public with a GNU Public License 3.

Logo GNU Public License 3

OpenVSP/OpenVSP-Connect Title


OpenVSP-Connect runs on OpenVSP 2.2.4 for Win32! If you want to work with OpenVSP-Connect you MUST work with this older OpenVSP version. OpenVSP 2.2.4 for Win32 is provided as part of the download below! If you work with a Mac, download OpenVSP 2.2.4 for Mac OS (see below). Excel (Microsoft Office) is also available for Mac. I have not tested OpenVSP-Connect in this combination on a Mac. So, please report your experience. OpenVSP Version 2 is not available for Linux/Ubuntu. Sorry, I have no solution here.

Historic note: OpenVSP-Connect was developed and tested on release 2.2.4. It should and seems to run also on the two newer releases 2.2.5 and 2.3.0. Reported have been bug fixes towards 2.2.5 and bug fixes towards 2.3.0, mostly related to details of CFD meshing. Release 2.3.0 was the last (and ultimate) Version 2 release. OpenVSP-Connect is incompatible with releases starting from 2.9.0 because 2.9.X is an alpha and beta series leading to Version 3..

Everything you need is in one ZIP-file, which includes also OpenVSP 2.2.4 for Win32.
Important in Germany: Excel-Optionen: Erweitert: Dezimaltrennzeichen: "." und Tausendertrennzeichnen: ","
Important: Excel Options, Equations/Formula: Allow Iteration (max. 100; change: 0.001)
Important: Excel Options, Trust, Settings in Trust Center: activate all macros; trust VBA models

"Version 1.1": New Excel file (corrected data loading for tool chain). See data files/container in Zip-File.

*.xlsm OpenVSP-Connect_1.1.xlsm    1.3M    06 May 2020

*.zip     15M    06 May 2020    pin
(This includes OpenVSP 2.2.4 for Win32)

*.zip     Size:  2.3M
(Download only in case OpenVSP is required separately, e.g. as viewer)

*.zip     Size:  5.2M
(Download only if you work on a Mac. In this case exchange the OpenVSP Windows version with this one.)

*.txt ReadMe.txt     Size:  1.7K



*.pdf GettingStartedWithOpenVSP-Connect.pdf     Size:  780K    pin

An official VSP User Manual was written and Video Tutorials were produced just before VSP was released as an open source. Text and videos below describe OpenVSP Version 2 perfectly. The information ist the best available to learn OpenVSP Version 2.

*.pdf VSP-UserManual_Version_1-7-92     Size:  2.8M

Video Tutorial 1: Maneuvering Models and View Adjustment
Video Tutorial 2: Adding and Modifying Parts
Video Tutorial 3: Basic Model of an Airplane
Video Tutorial 4: Modeling a Cessna 210
Video Tutorial 5: Mass Properties and Aero Reference
Video Tutorial 6: Introduction to Vorview
The Vorview/Vorlax capability in OpenVSP Version 2 is kept around only as a legacy to support users who had access to VSP before it was released as open source. The OpenVSP team at NASA was not able to gain the rights to distribute Vorlax openly. Use extended analysis features from OpenVSP Version 3 instead.



A comparison between the same aircraft displayed in is given in the two figures below.

Aircraft displayed in OpenVSP Version 2
Aircraft displayed in OpenVSP Version 3

OpenVSP Version 2 displays the aircraft very well - or even better than version 3. In both versions, the color of aircraft components can be chosen and the 3D lighting can be ajusted.

LAST MODIFIED:  05 May 2020
AUTHOR:  Prof. Dr. Scholz

home  Prof. Dr. Scholz
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