Satellite Situation Update (SSUP) software shows the current locations of a selected set of orbiting spacecraft, along with each satellite’s ground track and/or orbit shape. SSUP is intended as a real-time display, showing multiple spacecraft, that is suitable for a large wall monitor meant to be in public spaces for the appreciation of a wider audience. Satellite positions are constantly updated to stay current, based on either publicly available information (e.g. Celestrak) or other sources [by arrangement with Flight Dynamics Facility (FDF)]. The user chooses the spacecraft to be monitored, as well as other configuration parameters. SSUP is intended for education and outreach purposes; it is a way for an organization to, for example, take pride in the spacecraft they had a role in building or operating. SSUP also is an attractive way to stimulate interest in Earth-Sun-Moon relationships and basic orbital geometries.

There are two elements to this application: being able to obtain orbit elements for all spacecraft, and being able to display the current positions. Once the most recent orbit elements have been obtained, they are extrapolated forward to the current time and displayed. Several displays are used to best show spacecraft in various flight regimes. Spacecraft in low Earth orbit are displayed superimposed on a map of the Earth. For spacecraft in more exotic orbits, such as in halo orbits around the Sun-Earth L2, different display formats are used. The displays are cycled, with a cycle time of a few minutes, so that all spacecraft of interest are shown in turn.

This work was done by Eric Stoneking of Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16988-1

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the November, 2015 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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