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Tracking satellites through crowdsourcing

Earth.
Photo: NASA

A newly announced project called TruSat uses crowdsourced data to track satellites in an effort to hold companies and nations operating in space accountable.

Why it matters: Space junk is a growing concern for those in the space industry, as companies plan to send thousands of satellites to orbit in the coming years.

  • Having reliable means of tracking those satellites and any space junk created from them will be key to creating a sustainable space economy.

What's happening: Today, governments and other organizations are trying to create standards to help limit the amount of space junk produced in orbit.

  • “The efficacy of those standards will be limited without accountability for their adherence, and a major impediment to that accountability is the absence of freely accessible, globally trusted record of satellite orbital positions,” Chris Lewicki, co-founder of ConsenSys Space, which makes TruSat, said via email.

How it works: Instead of relying on information from governments or companies and tracking data from the U.S. Air Force, TruSat will use data collected by people on the ground observing satellites from their own backyards.

  • There is already a vibrant community of people around the world who track satellites with binoculars or cameras from the ground and share that information with one another.
  • Users of TruSat are able to enter tracking information for satellites they observe into the program, where it will be included in a crowdsourced record showing the tracks of satellites in the night sky.
  • The TruSat system is still in an experimental phase, Lewicki said, adding that they hope to add more features in later versions.

Go deeper: The coming cost of moving satellites