Space Junk with Javascript

1 minute read

Junk in space varies in size from tiny shards of material, through gloves and tools inadvertently dropped by astronauts in orbit, to large pieces of spacecraft and satellites. No matter the size though, as orbiting the earth means moving at around 17500 miles per hour any collisions are going to hurt!

In order to avoid these collisions and protect our vital satellites and other craft within earth’s vicinity, all known pieces of junk large enough to detect, satellites and space-craft (all considered satellites herein) are constantly tracked.

This is a JavaScript model of the existing satellites orbiting Earth at present (only satellites updated in last 30 days). There are over 12,000 so it’s a bit heavy on the CPU.

This is my first attempt at modelling anything in 3D with JavaScript, and not being a maths expert, I need to confirm how correct it is, but I think it looks like a good start. The satellites are not to scale of course!

You can control the model, moving the earth around or zoom in and out using the mouse.

I found quite a number of useful sites and code libraries to help me make this so I’ve listed them here.

  • N.A.S.A. Orbital Debris Program

    Information about the research of space debris done by N.A.S.A.

  • Space Track

    Data source for satellite position information

  • three.js World Globe Tutorial

    Very useful information on creating a world globe in JavaScript.

  • satellite.js

    A JavaSript library for satellite propagation from TLE data (Not using this in the end as pre-processing the data in Python to save bandwidth)

  • sgp4

    A Python library for satellite propagation from TLE data

  • 3D Game Programming for Kids

    A great and simple book for a quick start in to 3D JavaScript programming with three.js

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