Press Release

SPICE Domestic Training Class for 2013

By SpaceRef Editor
January 14, 2013
Filed under ,

April 23 – 25, 2013
Monrovia, California
Last Updated Jan 11, 2013

The Navigation and Ancillary Information Facility (NAIF) at JPL announces a “SPICE” Training class will be held at the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel in Monrovia, California on April 23-25, 2013. SPICE is an ancillary information system providing scientists access to spacecraft orbit, attitude and similar information needed to determine observation geometry used in planning and analyzing space science observations. SPICE is frequently used for mission engineering functions as well. Check for further information about SPICE.

The class will begin at 9:00 a.m. and will conclude between 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. each day. (On the third day the key items will have been covered by noon, so those who need to depart early could do so.) See the preliminary agenda (PDF) for details about the class syllabus and schedule.

This class will be very similar to previous SPICE classes. It should be considered a “beginner’s” class. If you have taken a previous class, this one may not be very interesting unless you need a refresher on some of the basics of SPICE.

The class is intended for those who will write software that will make use of SPICE data. People not intending to do programming using SPICE software are not likely to find this class very useful.

The class is not well suited for those whose principal job is to produce SPICE kernels unless the student is rather new to SPICE.

The class will interleave presentations of SPICE tutorials and “hands-on, open-book” programming lessons undertaken by the students using their own laptop computers. The programming lessons are broken into chunks of increasing complexity, and come complete with needed data, tips, references, correct answers, and NAIF’s own solutions. The NAIF instructors will answer questions and offer assistance as students work through these exercises.

The class is open to all domestic and foreign persons who are now participating–or may participate in the future–in any space exploration endeavor where SPICE capabilities could be useful, including education, public outreach and commercial ventures. Important rules regarding use of SPICE are published under the “Rules” section of the NAIF webpages. Potential attendees should read and understand these rules before registering for the class.

The next domestic class will likely be at least a year after this one, perhaps even longer. While the situation could change, at this point there are no prospects for any future foreign classes.

While this class is open to all, the NAIF group is generally not able to provide follow-up support or consultation except to those projects, groups and individual scientists and engineers covered by funding agreements. A table listing those currently eligible for various levels of support from NAIF may be accessed from the SUPPORT web page at the NAIF website:

There is no fee for this class, but attendees will be responsible for their own travel, lodging, per diem and related expenses.

Some familiarity with writing programs in one of the offered languages–Fortran 77, C, IDL, MATLAB–and in building and running executables on the laptop brought by the student, is needed to make this class useful. It would also be helpful, but not mandatory, if the student has some prior experience in dealing with “space mission geometry.”

It is sometimes helpful if two or three colleagues share a computer and work each programming lesson together.

Each student or student group must bring a laptop computer having an operating system supported by NAIF. Check for the NAIF-supported environments and to download the SPICE Toolkit for any of them. Students must use the specified version of the SPICE Toolkit. While version N0064 is now current, NAIF expects to release version N0065 in advance of the class. Before coming to the class students will be responsible for having installed the then current Toolkit, an appropriate compiler or IDL or MATLAB package (and license), and a program development environment or text editor suitable for writing code in the user’s selected programming language.

For IDL and MATLAB users: a WiFi Internet connection will be available in the classroom. Whether or not it will work with your institutional IDL or MATLAB license server–presumably through a VPN connection–cannot be determined by NAIF. It might be best for you to arrange for a temporary loaner license for your laptop to avoid this potential problem. (NAIF has made arrangements for some temporary IDL and MATLAB licenses; please indicate on your registration form if you will need one of these.)

Before coming to the class each student or student group must download the programming lessons and the SPICE kernel files to be used in the lessons. Students should have also tested their computer and compiler, or IDL or MATLAB installation, with the SPICE Toolkit to ensure these work together properly. (See if you can write, build and execute a small SPICE-based program.)

Students wishing to have the tutorials available on their own laptop should also download these before coming to the class. (The size of the tutorial set is quite large, in excess of 700 pages; we suggest you not print these.)

NAIF will later announce when the programming lessons, kernel files, tutorials and version N0065 Toolkit are available for downloading. Don’t grab those currently available on the NAIF website as some updates are being made.)

Directions for downloading and installing packages containing the tutorials, lessons and associated data will be provided later to confirmed class registrants.


Registration is required in order to ensure availability of a seat.

Please indicate your interest in this class by filling out and returning the form at the end of this note. (Cut and paste the form into an email.) Further announcements will be sent only to those who have registered or otherwise indicated an interest in the class. Please use a separate form for each applicant.

Firm commitments about attending will be required by March 29.

JPL/NAIF reserves the right to cancel the class at any time and for any reason, including lack of sufficient number of registrations, and reserves the right to cut off registrations if needed to keep the class to a manageable size. Registrations will be accepted according to the order in which they are received.

Questions about the class or about registation should be directed to Charles Acton (

SpaceRef staff editor.