This paper describes the architecture and demonstrates the capabilities of a newly developed, physically-based imaging simulator environment called SISPO, developed for small solar system body fly-by and terrestrial planet surface mission simulations. The image simulator utilises the open-source 3-D visualisation system Blender and its Cycles rendering engine, which supports physically based rendering capabilities and procedural micropolygon displacement texture generation. The simulator concentrates on realistic surface rendering and has supplementary models to produce realistic dust- and gas-environment optical models for comets and active asteroids. The framework also includes tools to simulate the most common image aberrations, such as tangential and sagittal astigmatism, internal and external comatic aberration, and simple geometric distortions. The model framework’s primary objective is to support small-body space mission design by allowing better simulations for characterisation of imaging instrument performance, assisting mission planning, and developing computer-vision algorithms. SISPO allows the simulation of trajectories, light parameters and camera’s intrinsic parameters.