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


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. Just two input parameters are sufficient to get started in "automatic mode": "cruise Mach number" and "number of passengers".

The Airbus A320 has been modeled with OpenVSP-Connect merely from a few parameters found at Wikipedia complemented with "expert" default data. The plot on the right is a resulting screen shot taken inside OpenVSP. OpenVSP supports an export of 3D aircraft to ATR 72 sketched with OpenVSP

MOUSE                                       KEYBOARD
----------------------------------------    -----------------------------------
left           : rotate                     a: top view
right / scroll : zoom                       r: revert to last view
left and ctrl  : pan                        d: debug mode (end: ctrl r)                             
                                            f,g,h,l,u,w => special (do not use)      
double click : define center of rotation    a,e         => back to normal 

Software considerations


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 several thousand 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. 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.

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, CFD with VSPAERO: Vortex Lattice Method (VLM), Panel Method. Unfortunately, a Version 2 model experiences some conversion losses, when imported into OpenVSP Version 3. Luckily, main aircraft components (fuselage, wing, tail, ...) will survive the conversion. If you do not need the extended analysis features from Version 3, just stay with Version 2.



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 programme 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.): EWADE 2013 - 11th European Workshop on Aircraft Design Education (16.-19. September 2013, Linköping, Sweden) - EWADE 2013 uploads are pending.

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:  3.7M



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

Logo GNU Public License 3

OpenVSP/OpenVSP-Connect Title


!!! OpenVSP-Connect still 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!

Everything you need is one ZIP-file
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

*.zip     Size:   16M

*.txt ReadMe.txt     Size:  1.2K

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

OpenVSP Video Tutorials (for VSP 2):
Tutorial 1: Maneuvering Models and View Adjustment
Tutorial 2: Adding and Modifying Parts
Tutorial 3: Basic Model of an Airplane
More advanced:
Tutorial 4: Modeling a Cessna 210
Tutorial 5: Mass Properties and Aero Reference
Tutorial 6: Modeling a Cessna 210

*.pdf VSP-UserManual_Version_1-7-92 (appropriate for Version 2)     Size:  2.8M

STAND:  03 April 2020
AUTHOR:  Prof. Dr. Scholz

home  Prof. Dr. Scholz
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