Monday, May 22, 2006

Satellite Tracking Google Mash-up

While there are many mash-up sites that link all kinds of datasets to the Google Maps API, the Real Time Satellite Tracking site authored by N2YO (his/her radio callsign) provides second-by-second tracking of Earth-orbiting satellites. The site defaults to a view that is centered on the International Space Station and the underlying Google map recenters itself about once a second to stay current.

The site provides links to hundreds of satellites and a sidebar not only gives each one's current position and speed, it tells you if is currently above your local horizon. You position is based on a query made to the IP2Location service, and may or may not be accurate, depending on your ISP.

I noticed that the AJAX interface uses a simple query based on the NORAD ID for each satellite, so I was able to map satellites that weren't on his list of links. For example, the lab where I work recently launched a constellation of 6 microsatellites. Since I knew the NORAD ID for each one, I was able to create a URL for each one.

The one improvement I'd like to see in this site is to be able to center the map on a location and then display the satellites that were currently above the horizon. Unfortunately, this is probably more than AJAX can handle, so I'll keep using