The North Pole Uses Simulation to Help Santa Take Flight

December 21, 2021

Today, we welcome back a very special guest blogger and avid user of the COMSOL Multiphysics® software. This blogger is part of a team that stays busy in a cozy workshop at the North Pole, providing engineering support for their upper management, who travels the world delivering cheer to young and old alike. Let’s find out what technical challenges they faced in the past year!

Some New Engineering Challenges for the Team…

Last December, our engineering team faced some delicate questions about possible product distribution bottlenecks that we were able to swiftly resolve with a COMSOL Multiphysics model. Since then, our usage of the software has grown dramatically.

One of our biggest challenges was when Santa asked us to upgrade his sleigh with new candy-cane rockets. These, when properly mounted, provide significant speed boosts at high altitudes. However, Santa’s cookie dough consumption has gone up in the past year, so we had to consider a redesign of the mounting hardware, as shown in the sketch below.

A line drawing of Santa in a sleigh with candy-cane rockets.
A sketch of our biggest engineering challenges.

Our design objective was to provide structural stability, but we also wanted a whimsical holiday aesthetic. We found inspiration from this recent blog post on generative design and used the Design Module to mock up various possibilities.

Four different sleigh designs.
A few different generative designs.

After honing in on one design, we also had to consider what happens during all phases of operation, such as when Santa’s sleigh is injected into a polar eccentric orbit. While in flight, the sleigh is being tracked by multiple ground stations but we were concerned that these organizations might not recognize the new design and thermal signature of the rockets. We thought it would be best to send our colleagues a visualization of the new sleigh in orbit. So, using the equation-based modeling capabilities, we solved the ordinary differential equations that govern spaceflight. We then used the new postprocessing tools to generate an animation of our updated design in its orbital trajectory.

All clear over the North Pole!

As you can see, our team rose to the challenge once again. Santa was particularly pleased with the new design, although he will try to cut down on the cookie dough for next year.

The hard-working elves here at the North Pole send their best holiday wishes to all the COMSOL Multiphysics users out there!

About the Author

Winter Frost is a senior elf engineer in Santa’s workshop, specializing in product distribution, orbital mechanics, and shape optimization of candy-cane rockets.


NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Image by Reto Stöckli (land surface, shallow water, clouds). Enhancements by Robert Simmon (ocean color, compositing, 3D globes, animation). Data and technical support: MODIS Land Group; MODIS Science Data Support Team; MODIS Atmosphere Group; MODIS Ocean Group Additional data: USGS EROS Data Center (topography); USGS Terrestrial Remote Sensing Flagstaff Field Center (Antarctica); Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (city lights).

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