Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Every Satellite Tracked In Realtime Via Google Earth

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the bejeweled-coterie dept.

Earth 196

Matt Amato writes "With the recent discussion of the ISS having to dodge some space junk, many people's attention has once again focused on the amount of stuff in orbit around our planet. What many people don't know is that USSTRATCOM tracks and publishes a list of over 13,000 objects that they currently monitor, including active/retired satellites and debris. This data is meaningless to most people, but thanks to Analytical Graphics, it has now been made accessible free of charge to anyone with a copy of Google Earth. By grabbing the KMZ, you can not only view all objects tracked in real-time, but you can also click on them to get more information on the specific satellite, including viewing its orbit trajectory. It's an excellent educational tool for the space-curious. Disclaimer: I not only work for Analytical Graphics, but I'm the one that wrote this tool as a demo."

cancel ×

196 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Confused (4, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887077)

The title says "every", the summary says 13,000 objects. Is this really complete, or are there objects that are not tracked (or at least not disclosed)?

Re:Confused (2, Insightful)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887101)

I would think it highly likely that there are certain objects in space that the United States Strategic Command would prefer not to talk about.

Re:Confused (4, Informative)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887135)

That doesn't mean that a lot of them are not easily tracked even by amateur astronomers. It is tricky to make something that can see you, but you not be able to see it.

Re:Confused (5, Funny)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887219)

Paint it black?

Re:Confused (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887375)

Nothing is 100% black, so it would still be visible. Besides, it would become too hot.

Re:Confused (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887865)

Nothing is 100% black

What about black holes? They just need to get the LHD guys to make them some strangelet paint.

Re:Confused (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887995)

Oops, I meant LHC. Though miners know a lot about black holes too.

Re:Confused (3, Funny)

Pugwash69 (1134259) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888091)

If there's any black holes in orbit, we have more important problems than a little debris.

Re:Confused (3, Funny)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888297)

we should put a black hole in orbit to take care of the debris. we can name it Hoover.

Re:Confused (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888339)

And then when he gets big enough we can use him as a second moon!

Re:Confused (4, Funny)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888639)

That's no moon...

Re:Confused (0, Redundant)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888369)

nope we wouldn't. a black hole with the mass of a satellite wouldn't need to worry us at all

Re:Confused (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888437)

What if that black hole got pulled into the earth by a collision?

Re:Confused (4, Informative)

adam.dorsey (957024) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888601)

Then there would be a black hole with the mass of a sattelite on/inside/passing straight through the Earth. Can you stand beside a satellite without being "sucked in" by gravity? It's the same mass, just in a really small space. Its gravity gets no stronger as a black hole than the gravity as a satellite.

Re:Confused (2, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888651)

Okay, but as it sucks in the atmosphere, wouldn't it get more massive? And would it not continue to pull in more and more mass as time went on? Or am I missing something?

Re:Confused (4, Interesting)

Zenaku (821866) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888907)

I am not a physicist, and am speculating. But I imagine that a black hole of such a small mass would have an event horizon so small that it could fall all the way through the earth without even striking the nucleus of a single atom. It wouldn't "pull in" much of anything -- besides having very little mass itself, at scales that small the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces between atoms are all far more significant than gravity.

Basically, it would only gain mass when through happenstance a subatomic particle happened to cross its event horizon, and while that would mean that eventually the black hole would grow large enough to matter, the infrequency of it gaining any mass and the insignificance of the mass gained each time would mean that it will still be imperceptible to us long after the sun burns out or goes nova.

Re:Confused (3, Insightful)

Zenaku (821866) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888927)

Oh, and this is all ignoring the possibility that a black hole that small would simply dissipate via Hawking radiation within a second of coming into being.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24888563)

Do they sell black hole paint?

Re:Confused (2, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888887)

They don't usually sell it, they just give it gratis to anyone with a good enough idea for a practical joke involving said paint.

Re:Confused (4, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887565)

they're usually given away by the glint of sun off their solar panels. you can find information on most of the "secret" satellites with google, they've pretty much all been located by the amateur astronomy community. Some even have pictures of them. Probably really gets some NSA types blood boiling.

Re:Confused (2, Informative)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888189)

So... some sort of shielding to prevent reflection making it down onto earth and some servo controllers to rotate said shielding to ensure no light reflection would be a bad idea then?

Just strikes me as a very virus vs anti-virus type argument, they keep building them, amateurs keep detecting them - somewhere along the line some genius is going to work it out...

Right? They do have genius' there... oh god...

Re:Confused (3, Interesting)

fabs64 (657132) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888469)

It's a solid object. As it stands that assures that it will either absorb, reflect or diffract all electromagnetic radiation that hits it with a wavelength less than its size. All three of those things are detectable.

At the moment it's more of a drm(hiders) vs hackers(finders) situation.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24888747)

That isn't logical at all. Is it, now?

Re:Confused (1)

kohaku (797652) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887585)

Well when they /do/ paint it black, and it's still detectable, I imagine their train of thought will go something like this:
It's like, how much more black could this be? and the answer is none. None more black.

Re:Confused (1)

maglor_83 (856254) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887745)

Get John Carmack onto it. He'll make it more black.

Re:Confused (2, Insightful)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887923)

You can't make it any more black. You just can't. You look at this, and I ask you, how much more black can it get? The answer is none. None more black.

Re:Confused (1)

albyrne5 (893494) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887835)

That's a quote or paraphrase, right?

But I can't jig my memory! HELPS!

Re:Confused (1)

Hankenstein (107201) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888111)

Spinal Tap [imdb.com]

Re:Confused (1)

n1ckml007 (683046) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887757)

Didn't the Rolling Stones sing about that?

Re:Confused (1)

jep77 (1357465) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888411)

with little white dots.

Re:Confused (1)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887273)

Says the guy who has thousands of people reading his comment, and only sees the ones who comment on it.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887319)

I don't think it is necessarily that tricky. The key is minimizing the reflection of sunlight. Theoretically you could make a 'stealth' spacecraft if you were able to develop extremely non-reflective surface coverings. I'm not sure how useful this would be since this method wouldn't necessarily stop you from seeing the satellites by radar. Much of the current stealth technology would be useless on these satellites because they are high enough up that scattered radio waves would be picked up by some station. You would have to make a radar absorbing covering to the level that even radar telescopes couldn't detect (you know, the same telescopes that are able to use radio waves to map Ceres and Venus with a 1/r^4 loss in intensity). The best thing you can do to make a stealth satellite is to give it a lot of rocket fuel to make plane changes.

Re:Confused (2, Insightful)

tumbleweedsi (904869) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887577)

Alas any material designed to absorb radiation would absorb too much energy and probably be damaged. It would also be detectable because it would be a 'hole in space' or a region of space with a sharp dip in background electromagnetic radiation.

Re:Confused (4, Interesting)

Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887949)

Plus, they have to be lofted in public view and there is an entire art to determining their missions based on their project patches:

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1033/1 [thespacereview.com]

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24888095)

The infamous Bugblatter Beast of Traal does something similar to that. Maybe the US should put some money toward research in this direction.

Re:Confused (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24888307)

There is software out there for amateur astronomers to easily track these satellites. Do a google search for "SatelliteTracker". Its a free program and easy to use.

The trick is, you can only view satellites when the angle of the sun is just right to reflect off its panels - sunrise or sunset.

Re:Confused (4, Insightful)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887295)

Every military satellite launched, not just by the US but by *anyone* can be tracked. Even gpredict has keps for US military stuff. You can track it, you can often see it with the naked eye, and you certainly can receive signals from them. Decoding the signals is harder, but with fairly modest equipment you can certainly hear that they are there.

Re:Confused (2, Funny)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888587)

Radar tech: Sir, I'm tracking an object that appears to be roughly eight inches long, orbiting roughly where you'd expect an object to be if it were jettisoned from the ISS.

Ex-ISS senior staffer: I don't want to talk about it.

Radar tech: Sir, but according to these readings, it appears to have a bulbous end and is made of silicone rubber...

Ex-ISS senior staffer: Dammit Dennis I said I don't want to talk about it!

Re:Confused (5, Interesting)

hoofinasia (1234460) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887141)

Of course, whenever the seller / developer presents software, the language gets a tad stronger. "Every" might not be "all."

However, given the recent interest in commercialized space travel / exploration, it would be in the USStratCom (US Strategic Command)'s best interest to keep X-Prize's rockets off their damn satellites. So I'm guessing the list is pretty comprehensive.

Re:Confused (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887661)

In the tech industry (marketing aside) terminology is very important. In this case (I'm guessing) it is possible that since he wrote the utility, ALL might mean ALL that he can get data for. This is technically correct, if slightly out of context, despite the source data only being available for 13000-ish object.

That said, 13,000 is a lot to track yet ALL objects being tracked would be more reassuring. After all, mini black holes at the LHC, rogue military space junk, Syria offering peace with Israel. Surely we live in the end times? Just kidding there....

Military satellites should be in the data. If amateur astrologists can track them, so can the Russians and Chinese. Might as well give out the data for them, you don't have to say what their purpose is. FFS, one of them might be dedicated to finding waldo^H^H^H^H^H^H Osama?

Thinking about that, why haven't they found him with satellites? Maybe those spy satellites aren't so good?

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887809)

Amateur astologists? So if SkySpy14 is in Taurus at quarter past one today does that mean I'll stub my toe a week on Tuesday?

Re:Confused (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887893)

No, but I wouldn't plan any trips to the middle east if I were you.

Re:Confused (4, Interesting)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887283)

Besides the conspiracy side of things, there are number of objects that are just simply too small to track. So when satellites have been shot down, or an astronaut drops a bolt, it's out there, but it might not be tracked. The last number I heard was 110k objects over 1cm [space.com] ... and that number's 8 years old.

Re:Confused (2)

barzok (26681) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887909)

Can you really "drop" a bolt in orbit?

Re:Confused (2, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888215)

Of course you can. Remember, orbiting is the state of constantly falling towards an object (in this case Earth), but always missing the ground. So the bolt is dropped, falls, and misses the ground over and over. At least until it hits into something else, shoots out into space (unlikely), and/or lowers orbit enough to burn up in the atmosphere.

Re:Confused (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24888837)

So the bolt is dropped, falls, and misses the ground over and over.

Well, if they guy would just stop dropping it over and over, we wouldn't have to worry about it in the first place. ;)

Re:Confused (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888447)

why wouldn't you be able to? astronauts are not infallible.

As for it staying in orbit, well given that when its droped it has the same angular momentum as the astronaut, it will probably stay in orbit for a while.

Re:Confused (1)

Lincolnshire Poacher (1205798) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887451)

There are many objects omitted by the released elements. You may recall a spat in August 2007 wherein the French authorities threatened to release elements for what were assumed to be classified US assets.

Also the StratCom elements are subject to an end-user license that prohibits dissemination of the data or any analysis based thereupon. Many amateur observers therefore refrain from using the elements:

http://www.space-track.org/perl/user_agreement.pl [space-track.org]

Ted Molczan and the guys on the SeeSat list do an amazing job of tracking these sats.

Re:Confused (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887805)

We can safely say that there are objects that are not disclosed. The French have detected 20-30 of them (http://www.space.com/spacenews/archive07/graves_0611.html). My understanding is that the catalog is actually a legal document in the sense that if the catalog associates an observed object with a known e.g. satellite, then that asociation is taken as fact in international courts. As a result, I expect that objects are not released unless there is a clear association.

Where's ComSatNeal? (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888829)

I can't seem to find it.

Very nice. (-1, Redundant)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887085)

Cool, thanks.

Re:Very nice. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887171)

Nige, well done.

How do I search for a specific satellite?

now (1)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887093)

try to find the one that is tracking you in real time in return. /gets tin foil hat

AGI in Exton, PA (5, Funny)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887109)

From what I hear, it's a pretty nice company to work for. Too nice in fact. The guy who was my Best Man at my wedding works there. You guys really need to let him out more. He likes it too much, and his family and friends miss him.

Re:AGI in Exton, PA (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24888771)

Interesting way to phrase that. "The guy who was my Best Man"

Now usually the Best Man is a close friend, So I am guessing you gys had a falling out.

I know, he slept with your wife.

And sorry but it was fun.

Err, not just Google Earth. (5, Informative)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887185)

According to the Wikipedia article on Keyhole Markup Language, the following apps can read and understand it:

        * ArcGIS Explorer
        * Feature Manipulation Engine (FME)
        * Flickr
        * Google Earth
        * Google Maps
        * Google Mobile
        * Live Search Maps
        * Microsoft Virtual Earth
        * Map My Ancestors
        * Mapufacture
        * Marble (KDE)
        * OpenLayers
        * Platial
        * RouteBuddy for Mac
        * WikiMapia
        * World Wind
        * Yahoo Pipes
        * SuperMap iServer (SuperMap IS) .NET and Java
        * OpenLAPI, an LGPL implementation of the Location API for Java ME

So, for those of you who don't have, or don't want to use, or can't use Google Earth, there are plenty of other options available.

But yes, it's pretty cool what you can do hey.

Re:Err, not just Google Earth. (4, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887397)

Most of those products are limited to the surface. Google Earth is one of the only ones that also has a space view and a Z axis. So, this particular KML would be of limited usefulness to most of them. For example even Google maps, I have no idea what it would do with this KML.

Re:Err, not just Google Earth. (1)

Mycroft_514 (701676) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887739)

Don't forget STSplus, for those still stuck in the DOS age.

And it has features for those wanting to track the Space Shuttle live.

And can looks like the big board at Mission control, or has a rotating earth - user choice.

StarOrbit, formally StarDock. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887191)

"KMZ, you can not only view all objects tracked in real-time, but you can also click on them to get more information on the specific satellite, including viewing it's orbit trajectory. It's an excellent educational tool for the space-curious. "

Import this into the Iron Engine and you'll have a real education.

xplanet? (4, Interesting)

Speare (84249) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887211)

It seems like every couple months, Google Earth gains another feature that's been working for months or years in the X Planet program. Day/Night artwork, Satellite ephemeris, etc. I'm still waiting for cloud layer updates and I don't think there's a solar or lunar locator on it yet. The interactive nature of Google Earth is nicer than the command-line static image output of X Planet. The author of X Planet had a private script that would take three 120-degree views of radar-measured cloud data from various weather services and stitch them into a single spherical projection to be used in the graphics. He'd update it every 3 hours or so, and host the stitched version. I'm sure Google could arrange a similar process and host the image data in such a way as not to hammer the original servers nor the X Planet server.

Re:xplanet? (2, Informative)

hab136 (30884) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887385)

Since it's not the first result in Google (or the second, or even the first page):

http://xplanet.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

Indeed, it seems it only makes a static picture, versus being a data exploration tool like Google Earth.

Re:xplanet? (4, Informative)

Tangent128 (1112197) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887399)

Err... it already does that- under "Weather", there are checkboxes for cloud cover (worldwide) and radar (limited to U.S & Europe).

I'm looking at Hanna, Ike, that splotch that may become something, and Josephine right now, and can see Gustav's remains in Canada. Pretty cool.

Pics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887227)

Can someone please post a pic of what this looks like in Google Earth with the satellites?

Very Nice job. (0, Redundant)

jasenj1 (575309) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887239)

Very nice.

And also.... (4, Interesting)

AnswerIs42 (622520) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887253)

You can use WWJava and JSatTrack [gano.name]

And NASA's J-Track [nasa.gov]

There is also a plug-in for WorldWind.net.. but that is only 400 objects.. though it could be easily tweaked to show the 13,000 list as well I am sure.

Re:And also.... (1)

Sporkinum (655143) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888535)

Yeah, I have been using J-Track for several years. Not as pretty, but gets the job done.

Since the Reagan era (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887313)

Since the Reagan era, we don't reveal all of the orbits of everything we launch. It's not, of course, like the Russians don't know the orbits of these other satellites, but they are not in our lists.

And, any observation net can only track objects down to a certain size, probably in the few ounce range for 13,000 objects.

Re:Since the Reagan era (1)

bbn (172659) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887445)

Which means that USA is publishing a list of which objects to watch.

Anything big, but not on the US list -> its a spy satelite. Better cover everything up when it passes overhead.

Sometimes policies like this are just stupid.

j-track 3d (4, Insightful)

KatTran (122906) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887323)

The subject sums it up, but I'm getting a little pissed at technology that is developed at NASA (World Wind) is just getting co-opted by Google (Google Earth) with no respect paid to the initial innovators.

J-Track 3D has been around for years doing this exact same function of plotting satellite trajectories including ground trace and additional information if you click on the satellite.

Just because you do it using Google doesn't mean that it's new, cool, innovative or news worthy.

http://science.nasa.gov/Realtime/jtrack/3d/JTrack3d.html [nasa.gov]

There is also J-Track which on Windows, with its "active desktop" feature, can be set as your background/wallpaper to always be tracking weather and satellites.

Re:j-track 3d (2, Insightful)

Gewalt (1200451) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887539)

Just because you do it using Google doesn't mean that it's new, cool, innovative or news worthy.

People were doing it with telescopes and pen and paper long before JTRACK3D, just because JTRACK3D did it via software doesn't mean that it's new, cool, innovative or news worthy.

Oh wait, yes, yes it does. And this new revolution of actively sharing data cross platform with any app that wants it is also new, cool, innovative and newsworthy.

Re:j-track 3d (1)

dargaud (518470) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887941)

Why isn't the space station listed in there ?

Re:j-track 3d (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888607)

Thats one of the objects in the elements list which is a nono to look at or even talk about.

Re:j-track 3d (4, Informative)

Suddenly_Dead (656421) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888293)

The subject sums it up, but I'm getting a little pissed at technology that is developed at NASA (World Wind) is just getting co-opted by Google (Google Earth) with no respect paid to the initial innovators.

Google Earth originated with Keyhole, Inc. (who was bought by Google), not NASA. Keyhole's Earth Viewer (which is now Google Earth) seems to have been first released in 2001; Worldwind's first release was in 2004.

Spy Satellites (4, Interesting)

Mechanik (104328) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887365)

So how long before this can be used to determine when spy satellites are/are not overhead and able to observe you? I would assume that with some basic armchair assumptions about the FOV and zoom capabilities of the satellites' cameras, one could project a cone onto a model representing the surface of the earth and determine the viewable area to each satellite (the existence of which and orbits of which are generally known by satellite buffs).

I've long wondered if something like this is already available to foreign intelligence operatives... it's long been said that say the Russians know exactly when US spy satellites are due to be overhead, and change their behaviour and camouflage anything they don't want seen in time for when the satellites pass overhead.

It raises some interesting issues with respect to national security, the war on drugs/terror/etc. However, given it's all based on public knowledge and you can't exactly outlaw math, I fail to see what the government could do about it.

Re:Spy Satellites (4, Informative)

ledow (319597) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887465)

I think you'll find that your information is a little out of date and mainly applies to older military satellites.

Anything "critical" wold be done with a better satellite or a cloud of smaller satellites that are impossible to "avoid". For instance, GPS demands that at least four satellites are in view at all times from every part of the globe to get an accurate fix. Satellites which are, on the whole, run, controlled or have interests from the US Government. I'm not saying that the GPS system is for primarily military "spying" purposes, but it shows that even the public satellite orbits are enough to basically see anything, anywhere, given the most basic of manoeuvring capability.

What makes you think that all of the "unheard of" satellites are any different, or in fewer numbers, or not able to move to look at anything interesting within a reasonable timeframe? It would be quite pointless, after all, to launch a modern multi-billion dollar military satellite if all that was required was public information / academic data gathered from worldwide telescopes to render them completely useless.

Even easier would be to, oh, I don't know, do things at night (yes, IR-capable satellites exist but it makes things harder straight away)? Or do things in large warehouses with a roof?

Re:Spy Satellites (2, Insightful)

Mechanik (104328) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887751)

You have a point perhaps with most of what you wrote (admittedly I am not up on the latest and greatest of US spy satellite tech), but there are a few issues with the below:

Even easier would be to, oh, I don't know, do things at night (yes, IR-capable satellites exist but it makes things harder straight away)? Or do things in large warehouses with a roof?

Some things are just difficult to hide in this manner, not to mention expensive. Yes, there is a history of say, the Soviets building nuclear submarines in caves and whatnot to avoid overhead surveillance, but the bigger something is, the harder it is to hide in such a way that you can keep working on it while it's hidden. It's going to look a bit odd when all those cement trucks that are pouring the foundation for an ICBM site keep going into a supposedly finished warehouse in the middle of Buttfuck, Siberia where there's nothing around for 100 miles. The intelligence analysts are still going to know you're up to something.

Construction in the dark is a pain in the ass as well. You'd have to light everything so that the workers can see what the hell they are doing, so in effect much of it would be visible anyway. Outfitting every worker with night vision goggles is not typically cost effective I would think.

Re:Spy Satellites (5, Informative)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887869)

GPS satellites orbit at around 20200km., Spy satellites (of the take pictures variety - some other types are in geosynchronous orbit, SBIRS and Rhyolite for example) orbit at around 200km (sometime under 100km, sometimes 600km - there's the obvious detail/area trade off).

GSP just requires line of sight. Spy satellite cameras point in some direction.

Claiming there is any relationship at all between having 4 GPS sats in view at any time and what spy satellites are capable of is ridiculous.

Re:Spy Satellites (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888001)

It raises some interesting issues with respect to national security, the war on drugs/terror/etc. However, given it's all based on public knowledge and you can't exactly outlaw math, I fail to see what the government could do about it.

pssst. Most drones can loiter between 24-48 hours over a given area, and send realtime data back to wherever it needs to go.

I'm sure there's some cool stuff that can be done with satellites that can't be done with drones, But when it comes to taking pictures of who is where? I'll take a few drones at 50,000ft with good cameras (that can watch an area uninterrupted for days / weeks) over a satellite with an awesome camera that's 400 miles away.

Re:Spy Satellites (1)

Mechanik (104328) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888181)

I'm sure there's some cool stuff that can be done with satellites that can't be done with drones, But when it comes to taking pictures of who is where? I'll take a few drones at 50,000ft with good cameras (that can watch an area uninterrupted for days / weeks) over a satellite with an awesome camera that's 400 miles away.

Interesting thought. I assume though that keeping drones up constantly is probably not cost effective. Satellites, while expensive to build and send into orbit, are cheap once they're up there, as they have few moving parts and are largely solar powered. Drones have to keep returning to base for fuel and require more maintenance. There have been some interesting experiments with long flight time solar powered drones and blimps, but I think most of these have either not allowed for any significant extra payload (the drones), or have been ineffective due to winds (the blimps).

Re:Spy Satellites (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888715)

I think you should take a look at how successful the global hawk program has been, and just look into the return we've gotten on drones in general.

The KH-12's run about a billion dollars a piece, and the launches cost $400 million a piece, per wikipedia. The Global Hawks cost $123 million a piece (again, per wikipedia). Which has would be more useful in providing up to the minute information about someplace halfway around the world?

(of course, the flip side to that argument is that you're not going to fly half a dozen Global Hawks over Beijing or Moscow anytime in the near future.)

Yes, drones need to be refueled and maintained. But since you can have a whole squadron of them in place, that offsets a lot of the negatives. Lose one? Launch another. Need to watch an area for a month straight 24/7? Put one on station and relieve it every 24 hours with another drone. Now, try and refuel or maintain a spy sat. Better yet, try getting two live vantage points from a spy sat. Or upgrading a camera. Or added a different sensor package. Drones define two things that the intelligence community loves to hear: Flexibility and cost effectiveness.

Spy sattelite can shoot pictures at unusual angles (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888257)

I would assume that with some basic armchair assumptions about the FOV and zoom capabilities of the satellites' cameras

Well the problem is that more modern satellite have supposedly more complicated Cassegrain assemblies [wikipedia.org] making them able to shoot pictures at weird angles.

So although amateurs satellite watcher could very well help establish a precise map of all "über-secret"(*) military satellites *are* - inferring which part of the world are indeed visible and looked at is going to be slightly more complicated.

But civilian applications (knowing which of the official satellite is looking where) could be more easily done (since I haven't heard any of them to be designed to shoot picture at weird angles - and even then their characteristics could be obtained), thus helping privacy paranoid to hide their cat [boingboing.net] and exhibitionists to inflict their nude sunbaths to innocent Google Maps users.

---

(*) - übergeheim for german geeks...

Re:Spy Satellites (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888627)

I know at all times when the satellites can't track me....when I am under a bridge,
else all bets are off. Think about it, unless they have thermal sensors that can track you from that far, then we are all screwed.

EULA (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887391)

Does Google then own the satellites, like they state in their EULA?

sh1t (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887439)

posts. Th3refore [goat.cx]

Directions: To here - From here? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887447)

Thanks Google Earth, I just planned my next vacation.

'Nod' tag (5, Interesting)

Spatial (1235392) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887457)

What? I don't get it. Should we call in the GDI, or is this yet another useless meme tag?

Everything is relative (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24888583)

Maybe the tagger is a non-obese diabetic [wikipedia.org] mouse that has escaped from an animal intelligence boosting lab.

I worked for AGI for almost 5 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887521)

Great company, great people, great products!

The blue, infinite sky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24887551)

... and when you watch a bright night sky, populated just by stars and planets.. .. or a clear blue sky at midday, thinking about space, and the infinite....

Well.. think again. Somebody's ruined it already.

--
As a foreigner (from Mars, infact), I thought Earth's orbit we ought to use as landfill, actually. Are you saying there's people living there??

--
Very nice graphical swarm of debris/bees running around Earth. Good job!

Only issue I have with KMZ: there is so many, so fascinating, but no good search engine or cool, complete catalougue of them... Wait, let me call the copyrights office, quick!

I can see my house from here! (1)

SystematicPsycho (456042) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887605)

Remember the days when you had to pay to get a picture of your house taken? Was that a rip? Or does google have enough money around to be able to offer the entire earth (almost) as a free service?

Misleading? (3, Insightful)

blantonl (784786) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887651)

I think the story might be a little misleading.

I suspect that not every object's info is made available, rather only the objects that USSTRATCOM deems appropriate for public consumption. Spy Sats, classified objects, and other items that they classify as not appropriate certainly doesn't show up in this KML.

Or do they? ;-)

Did someone think about clean up? (2, Interesting)

kai6novice (1093633) | more than 5 years ago | (#24887831)

I think some companies should just go clean up all the retired/inactive/disfunctional satellites or junk and recycle it! ;)

Your grammar sucks, yet you track satellites? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24888259)

but you can also click on them to get more information on the specific satellite, including viewing it's orbit trajectory...

I not only work for Analytical Graphics, but I'm the one that wrote this tool as a demo.

Its. Its. Its. Its.

Please learn grade school grammar before you track satellites. Kthx.

Not as fantastic as it seems (1, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888409)

I know, it's a wow kind of thing.

But if you think about it a bit, an orbital path can be described by a very few numbers-- the angles to the equator and to Greenwich, and the minor and major radii. All else can be computed on the fly by about 8 lines of code.

Re:Not as fantastic as it seems (2, Informative)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888901)

The usual format is NASA 2-line format [celestrak.com] . People (including me) have been using it to track satellites for years.

The orbital models have been refined over the years. The latest version I've seen is this one [celestrak.com] .

...laura

You had to see this coming... (2, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888475)

I not only work for Analytical Graphics, but I'm the one that wrote this tool as a demo.

Domo arigato Mr. Amato.

What we should do... (1, Funny)

PortHaven (242123) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888503)

We should place in front of the ISS a thin, strong lightweight netting.

It could have a number of mass objects (weights) with thrusters to keep them apart. The net would span a few miles catching large debris. Clearing the path for the ISS.

When full, the netting would be closed. And towed to a lower orbit. And eventually burn up in the atmosphere.

Wow. (2, Interesting)

arcsimm (1084173) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888745)

It was certainly a shocker when Google Earth loaded up the satellite data. I knew there was a lot of crap up there, but damn!

If I could make one suggestion, though, should you continue to develop this: Different icons for different classes of satellite? For instance, a greyed-out icon for inactive satellites, a booster for rocket leftovers, a chunk of rock for space debris, etc... I spent about a minute wondering why there were so many weather satellites over the US until I realized that most of them were just orbiting debris.

Awesome use of Google Earth, though!

My God.. (1)

akunkel (74144) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888847)

Its full of crap!

I Recommend Freefall from Advanced Analytic (1)

Nano2Sol (806181) | more than 5 years ago | (#24888891)

Also available in real time and which has been around a long time is Freefall from Advanced Analytic [advancedanalytic.com] . It provides a lot more information and options and can also be used as your screensaver.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>