International Space Station Orbit Tracker

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by Super User, 3 years ago
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There’s a growing movement of people who believe that our space agencies are underfunded (see: Penny4NASA) because humanity is just not paying enough attention to our present accomplishments and future plans in space exploration. Well, I know one way to direct attention to something: Point at it.

This is the first prototype of the International Space Station Desktop Orbit Tracker. The pointer is controlled by an ST Microelectronics Nucleo F401, an "arduino-compatible" development board, which performs the orbital propagation and coordinate system transformations using a ported version of the SGP4 model and drives an Adafruit motor shield.

A stepper motor controls the azimuth and a servo controls the elevation. The Station orbits the earth every 90 minutes so the speed of motion is roughly equivalent to a minute hand on a clock: slow enough that it’s not really interesting to watch, but fast enough that it’s in a new place every time you glance over.

I’ve got lots of ideas for extensions of this design, including:
- Trophies for aerospace-related awards
- Keeping track of cubesats in high school classrooms
- Amateur radio antenna mounts
- A children’s museum exhibit where you can select between satellites, planets, and landmarks to point at
- Making a huge one as an outdoor art installation.

For this prototype, though, I just wanted it to simply point: a reminder that the world’s full of incredible things if you just know what direction to look. Thanks for watching and let me know what you think!

The code: https://github.com/gradyh/ISS-Tracking-Pointer

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Resources for learning more:
https://celestrak.com/columns/
https://celestrak.com/software/vallado-sw.asp
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simplified_perturbations_models

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Music: Doctor Vox - Gold (https://youtu.be/VM-hX0BQf40)