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In OpenSpace, Assets are modular components used to populate the scene and provide configurations. Assets can declare dependencies on other assets, which let them form a directed asyclic graph. Furthermore, assets can declare dependencies on external resources, that can be stored in the local filesystem or downloaded from the internet. An asset may represent a planet, a trail of a spacecraft, a volumetric dataset, a set of keybindings, or any other component that can be added and removed from an OpenSpace scene using the Lua API. Assets may also represent more abstract building blocks, such as invisible scene graph nodes used as reference coordinate frames, or Lua functions that can be reused by other asets.

Assets are written in Lua and have access to all OpenSpace Lua scripting functions. One asset file correspond to exactly one asset and have the suffix .asset or .scene. The .scene suffix indicates that the asset is mainly designed to be used as a root level asset and is suitable to be referenced from the openspace.cfg.

Asset lifecycle

When OpenSpace loads, a root-level asset will be loaded according to the Asset setting in openspace.cfg. Typically, the scene asset refers to several other assets, which in turn reference others. Additional root-level assets can be added while OpenSpace is running using the lua command openspace.asset.add(<path to asset>). Assets can be removed by calling openspace.asset.remove(<path to asset>). Only root-level assets may be removed using this method, while assets that are dependencies of other root-level will be automatically be deinitialized when the last referencing root-level asset is removed.

An asset that is imported into OpenSpace goes through a sequence of states: Loading, Synchronization, Initialization and Deinitialization.


When an asset is loaded, the asset file’s lua code is executed. The method asset.require may be used to declare dependencies on other assets, stating that they should be loaded first.

The asset may register resource synchronizations using asset.syncedResource and provide functions to be executed upon asset initialization (asset.onInitialize) and deinitialization (asset.onDeinitialize). The loading step itself should not manipulate the OpenSpace scene in any way. Instead, it should register any such logic with the asset.onInitializeand asset.onDeinitialize methods. However, the loading step may make calls to helper functions, such as assetHelper.registerSceneGraphNodes, which internally uses asset.onInitialize and asset.onDeinitialize. If an asset is loaded successfully it will transition to the Synchronizing state.


OpenSpace will asynchronously download resources from the internet based on specifications passed into asset.syncedResource. If the synchronization succeeds for the asset and all its dependencies, it will be marked as ready to transition to the Initialization phase. See below for examples using syncedResource.


Once an asset’s synchronization is done the asset can be initialized. This involves calling all functions passed into asset.onInitialize, in the order they were registered. OpenSpace guarantees that all required child-assets are initialized before the parent asset starts initializing. Typically the initialization includes adding scene graph nodes to the scene, adding dashboard components, binding keyboard shortcuts, etc.


When an asset is deinitialized, all functions passed to asset.onDeinitialize are executed in reversed order. Required child-assets are guaranteed to be deinitialized after their parent asset. The deinitialization step typically removes scene graph nodes, removes dashboard items or unbinds keyboard shortcuts.

Simple Example

The following asset file instructs OpenSpace to create a sphere with NASA’s Blue Marble texture and add it to the scene:

-- example_sphere.asset
-- Declare util/asset_helper as a dependency
local assetHelper = asset.require('util/asset_helper')

-- Define a synchronized resource to be downloaded before the asset can be initialized
local blueMarbleFolder = asset.syncedResource({
    Type = "UrlSynchronization",
    Name = "Blue Marble July Texture",
    Identifier = "blueMarbleJulyTexture",
    Url = "",

-- Create a scene graph node representing a textured sphere
local sphere = {
    Identifier = "ExampleSphere",
    Transform = {
        Translation = {
            Type = "StaticTranslation",
            Position = { 10, 0, 0 }
    Renderable = {
        Type = "RenderableSphere",
        Enabled = true,
        Size = 1,
        Segments = 80,
        Opacity = 1,
        Texture = blueMarbleFolder .. "/world.200407.3x5400x2700.jpg",
        Orientation = "Both",
    GUI = {
        Name = "Test Sphere",
        Path = "/Other/Spheres"

-- Register onInitialize and onDeinitialize functions that adds and removes the scene graph node.
-- Also, export the sphere specification so that other assets can fetch parameters from it.
assetHelper.registerSceneGraphNodesAndExport(asset, { sphere })

registerSceneGraphNodesAndExport(...) is a shorthand method that is commonly used for assets that need to register scene graph nodes in the scene graph. Refer to ${BASE}/assets/util/asset_helper.asset for the full implementation of registerSceneGraphNodesAndExport. The result of calling the function call is equivalent to the following code:

asset.onInitialize(function ()

asset.onDeinitialize(function ()
    -- "ExampleSphere" comes from the Identifier value of the exported node.

asset.export("ExampleSphere", sphere);

Other assets can now import the sphere specification, like so:

local sphereAsset = asset.require("./example_sphere")
asset.onInitialize(function ()
    openspace.printDebug("Imported " .. sphereAsset.ExampleSphere.GUI.Name .. " into the scene")

More examples can be found in ${BASE}/data/assets/examples.

Asset API Reference

OpenSpace provides lua APIs for managing assets within a running OpenSpace instance, as well as defining the assets themselves and declaring resource synchronizations.

Managing assets

Assets can be added and removed at runtime using the lua API in OpenSpace.

void openspace.asset.add(string path) Adds the asset located at path to the current scene as a root-level asset.

void openspace.asset.remove(string path) Removes the asset located at path from the scene. The asset will only be removed as a root-level asset; if it is also declared as a dependency of some other root-level asset, it will remain in the scene until that root-level asset is removed.

Defining assets

Asset files have access to a special asset object that represent the current asset. The asset object is only valid during the loading phase, and exposes the following methods:

table asset.require(string path) Declares a dependency on another asset. Paths are specified without the .asset or .scene suffix. Paths starting with / or a drive letter are treated as absolute paths. Paths beginning with ./ or ../ are treated as relative to the current asset file. Paths starting with a directory name or file name are relative to the asset root directory, which is typically ${BASE}/data/assets (configurable in openspace.cfg). The method returns a table of the exports provided by the required asset, such as scene graph node specifications or Lua functions. There is a asset.requireAll(string path) method provided by util/asset_helper.asset that can be used to request all assets in the path recursively.

void asset.request(string path) Requests an asset to be added without imposing some of the strict guarantees of asset.require: If the child asset fails to load, synchronize or initialize, the parent asset will still independently do so. Neither is there any guarantee that the child asset will be loaded or initialized before the parent asset, so unlike asset.require the method will not return the exports of the child asset. There is a asset.requestAll(string path) method provided by util/asset_helper.asset that can be used to request all assets in the path recursively.

void asset.onInitialize(void() initializationFunction) Registers a lua function to be executed when the asset is initialized. This method may be called several times to register several callbacks. The functions will be called in the same order as they were registered.

void asset.onDeinitialize(void() deinitializationFunction) Registers a lua function to be executed when the asset is deinitialized. This method may be called several times to register several callbacks. The functions will be called in the reverse order as they were registered.

string asset.syncedResource(table syncSpecification) Declares a data resource to be synchronized before the asset can be initialized. This includes downloading data from the offical OpenSpace server (, but can also be used to make arbitrary HTTP requests. The data is downloaded to the sync folder (typically ${BASE}/sync but can be changed in openspace.cfg). The method returns the absolue path to the folder of the downloaded resource. Valid inputs are tables representing ResourceSynchronizations documented in more detail below.

string asset.localResource(string relativePath) Declares a data resource already located on disk. The input to the function is a path relative to the asset file and the function returns the absolute path to that resource.

void asset.export(string key, any value) Export any data structure to other assets that require this asset. For example, assets that adds scene graph nodes upon initialization can export the identifiers of the scene graph nodes, so that other assets can reference these scene graph nodes. Furthermore, functions can be exported, allowing assets to behave more like software modules. Some examples of this can be found in the assets/util/asset_helper.asset.

Resource synchronizations

There are two built-in mechanisms of resource synchronizations in OpenSpace: The HttpSynchronization and the UrlSynchronization. The HttpSynchronization is designed to fetch versioned data from the offical OpenSpace server (, like this:

local path = asset.syncedResource({
    Type = "HttpSynchronization",
    Name = "Foo"
    Identifier = "foo",
    Version = 1

The UrlSynchronization can be used to fetch arbitrary data from the web.

local path = asset.syncedResource({
    Type = "UrlSynchronization",
    Name = "Bar",
    Identifier = "bar",
    Url = "",
    Override = true

While a synchronized asset can be required or requested from multiple locations, it can only declared in one location. For example, consider a synchronized asset that contains more than one file (e.g. solarsystem/planets/jupiter/jupiter_labels.asset). If the individual label files are used in different asset files, they must all reference the same source asset, and then append the label filename to the jupiter_labels asset path. An error will occur if different synchronized assets are defined in order to request the individual label files.

The Override paramater can be used to force a new download even if the file has already previously been downloaded.