PIC-C, Particle In Cell Consulting, LLC. Plasma physics and rarefied gas simulation codes.


Starfish is a 2D (XY and RZ) simulation code for a wide range of rarefied gas and plasma physics problems. The code uses linear or cubic splines to represent the object geometry and rectilinear or deformed mesh to define the computational volume. Gas/plasma can be modeled using several different kinetic or fluid models. Multiple gas injection sources are available, and a detailed surface handler is also implemented. The species interact with each other via collisions (MCC or DSCM) or by chemical reactions.

There are two versions. Starfish Light is an ES-PIC-MCC version containing basic surface modeling capabilities and sources. It is available as a free download from this site. The full version extends the basic version by including detailed surface modeling, advanced fluid solvers, and DSMC gas kinetics. It also contains special solvers for modeling Hall Effect Thrusters. Typical applications of (the full version) Starfish include plasma and chemical rocket plume modeling, view factor calculation, contamination transport, and study of Hall thrusters. The light version is a great tool for exploring basic plasma processes such as plasma sheaths. The full version is currently not available for distribution and is used internally in support of our contracts.


  • Version 0.15 (149Kb): This version is quite buggy. Due to some recent refactoring changes, several features had to be deactivated and are yet being verified. Check back for updates and let us know of any bugs you find.

Starfish-LE is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs license. By downloading the code you agree to the terms of this license agreement.

Sign up for the newsletter to receive code release updates.

The source code is currently note available. We anticipate making the source for Starfish Light available once the code reaches a higher state of maturity.


  • Common features: XY/RZ support, linear/cubic spline geometry definition, rectilinear/stretched meshes, multiple fluid and/or kinetic species, material interactions, surface and volume sources, animation output, limited (for now) parallel processing, Tecplot output (Paraview coming soon)
  • Starfish Light:electrostatic particle in cell (ES-PIC), Monte Carlo Collisions (MCC), surface deposition, ionization, diffusion solver
  • Starfish Full: fluid models (advection-diffusion, Navier Stokes), gas kinetics (DSMC), contamination support (particulate modeling, surface residence time, support for ASTM E595 data)
  • Short term wish list: (yet to be implemented features) GUI, better parallel processing, electromagnetic model (EM-PIC), and the MHD model for plasma
plasma sheath near a rough wall
Example Starfish simulations: modeling of a Hall thruster (in full version), and sheath modeling with a rough surface (available in LE)

Getting Started

Starfish is a Java program, and as such, you will need to have the Java Runtime Environment installed. Starfish currently runs in command-line mode only. Navigate to the folder containing your input files and use the syntax below to launch the simulation.

> java -jar <path-to-file>/starfish-LE.jar

Detailed documentation, including list of all available input file commands will be posted shortly. For now, please view the Starfish Tutorial.


If you find the program useful, please cite:

Brieda, L., and Keidar, M., “Development of the Starfish Plasma Simulation Code and Update on Multiscale Modeling of Hall Thrusters”, 48th AIAA Joint Propulsion Conference, Atlanta, GA, 2012, AIAA-2012-4015, doi:10.2514/6.2012-4015 (pdf)