English subtitles

← The world's first crowdsourced space traffic monitoring system

Get Embed Code
34 Languages

Showing Revision 9 created 07/08/2019 by Oliver Friedman.

  1. I am an astrodynamicist --
  2. you know, like that guy Rich Purnell
    in the movie "The Martian."
  3. And it's my job to study and predict
    motion of objects in space.
  4. Currently we track about one percent
    of hazardous objects on orbit --
  5. hazardous to services like location,
  6. agriculture, banking,
  7. television and communications,
  8. and soon -- very soon --
  9. even the internet itself.
  10. Now these services are not protected
    from, roughly, half a million objects

  11. the size of a speck of paint
  12. all the way to a school bus in size.
  13. A speck of paint,
  14. traveling at the right speed,
  15. impacting one of these objects,
  16. could render it absolutely useless.
  17. But we can't track things
    as small as a speck of paint.
  18. We can only track things
    as small as say, a smartphone.
  19. So of this half million objects
    that we should be concerned about,
  20. we can only track
    about 26,000 of these objects.
  21. And of these 26,000,
    only 2,000 actually work.
  22. Everything else
  23. is garbage.
  24. That's a lot of garbage.
  25. To make things a little bit worse,

  26. most of what we launch into orbit
    never comes back.
  27. We send the satellite in orbit,
  28. it stops working, it runs out of fuel,
  29. and we send something else up ...
  30. and then we send up something else ...
  31. and then something else.
  32. And every once in a while,

  33. two of these things
    will collide with each other
  34. or one of these things will explode,
  35. or even worse,
  36. somebody might just happen to destroy
    one of their satellites on orbit,
  37. and this generates many, many more pieces,
  38. most of which also never come back.
  39. Now these things are not
    just randomly scattered in orbit.

  40. It turns out that given
    the curvature of space-time,
  41. there are ideal locations
  42. where we put some of these satellites --
  43. think of these as space highways.
  44. Very much like highways on earth,
  45. these space highways can only take up
    a maximum capacity of traffic
  46. to sustain space-safe operations.
  47. Unlike highways on earth,
  48. there are actually no space traffic rules.
  49. None whatsoever, OK?
  50. Wow.
  51. What could possibly go wrong with that?
  52. (Laughter)

  53. Now, what would be really nice

  54. is if we had something
    like a space traffic map,
  55. like a Waze for space that I could look up
  56. and see what the current
    traffic conditions are in space,
  57. maybe even predict these.
  58. The problem with that, however,
  59. is that ask five different people,
  60. "What's going on in orbit?
  61. Where are things going?"
  62. and you're probably going to get
    10 different answers.
  63. Why is that?
  64. It's because information about things
    on orbit is not commonly shared either.
  65. So what if we had a globally accessible,

  66. open and transparent
    space traffic information system
  67. that can inform the public
    of where everything is located
  68. to try to keep space safe and sustainable?
  69. And what if the system could be used
  70. to form evidence-based
    norms of behavior --
  71. these space traffic rules?
  72. So I developed ASTRIAGraph,

  73. the world's first crowdsourced,
    space traffic monitoring system
  74. at the University of Texas at Austin.
  75. ASTRIAGraph combines multiple sources
    of information from around the globe --
  76. government, industry and academia --
  77. and represents this in a common framework
    that anybody can access today.
  78. Here, you can see 26,000 objects
    orbiting the earth,
  79. multiple opinions,
  80. and it gets updated in near real time.
  81. But back to my problem
    of space traffic map:

  82. What if you only had information
    from the US government?
  83. Well, in that case, that's what
    your space traffic map would look like.
  84. But what do the Russians think?
  85. That looks significantly different.
  86. Who's right? Who's wrong?
  87. What should I believe?
  88. What could I trust?
  89. This is part of the issue.
  90. In the absence of this framework
    to monitor space-actor behavior,

  91. to monitor activity in space --
  92. where these objects are located --
  93. to reconcile these inconsistencies
  94. and make this knowledge commonplace,
  95. we actually risk losing the ability
  96. to use space for humanity's benefit.
  97. Thank you very much.

  98. (Applause and cheers)