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The world's first crowdsourced space traffic monitoring system

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    I am an astrodynamicist --
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    you know, like that guy Rich Purnell
    in the movie "The Martian" --
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    and it's my job to study and predict
    motion of objects in space.
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    Currently we track about one percent
    of hazardous objects on orbit --
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    hazardous to services like location,
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    agriculture,
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    banking,
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    television and communications
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    and soon --
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    very soon --
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    even the internet itself.
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    Now these services are not protected
    from roughly half a million objects
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    the size of a speck of paint
    all the way to a school bus in size.
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    A speck of paint,
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    traveling at the right speed,
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    impacting one of these objects,
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    could render it absolutely useless.
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    But we can't track things
    as a small as a speck of paint.
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    We can only track things
    as small as say, a smartphone.
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    So of this half million objects
    that we should be concerned about,
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    we can only track
    about 26,000 of these objects,
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    and of these 26,000,
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    only 2,000 actually work.
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    Everything else is garbage.
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    That's a lot of garbage.
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    To make things a little bit worse,
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    most of what we launch into orbit
    never comes back.
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    We send the satellite in orbit,
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    it stops working,
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    it runs out of fuel,
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    and we send something else up ...
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    and then we send up something else ...
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    and then something else.
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    And every once in a while,
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    two of these things
    will collide with each other
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    or one of these things will explode
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    or even worse,
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    somebody might just happen to destroy
    one of their satellites on orbit,
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    and this generates many, many more pieces,
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    most of which also never come back.
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    Now these things are not
    just randomly scattered in orbit.
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    It turns out that given
    the curvature of space-time,
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    their ideal locations --
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    where we put some of these satellites --
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    think of these as space highways.
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    Very much like highways on Earth,
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    these space highways can only take up
    a maximum capacity of traffic
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    to sustain space-safe operations.
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    Unlike highways on Earth,
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    there are actually no space-traffic rules.
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    None whatsoever, OK?
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    Wow.
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    What could possibly go wrong with that?
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    (Laughter)
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    Now, what would be really nice
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    is if we had something
    like a space-traffic map,
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    like a Waze for space that I could look up
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    and see what the current
    traffic conditions are in space,
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    maybe even predict these.
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    The problem with that, however,
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    is that ask five different people,
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    "What's going on in orbit?
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    Where are things going?"
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    and you're probably going to get
    10 different answers.
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    Why is that?
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    It's because information about things
    on orbit is not commonly shared either.
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    So what if we had a globally accessible,
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    open and transparent,
    space-traffic information system
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    that can inform the public
    of where everything is located
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    to try to keep space safe and sustainable?
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    And what if the system could be used
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    to form evidence-based
    norms of behavior --
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    these space-traffic rules?
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    So I developed AstroGraph,
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    the world's first crowdsourced,
    space-traffic monitoring system
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    at the University of Texas at Austin.
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    AstroGraph combines multiple sources
    of information from around the globe --
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    government, industry and academia --
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    and represents this in a common framework
    that anybody can access today.
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    Here you can see 26,000 objects
    orbiting the Earth,
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    multiple opinions
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    and it gets updated in near real time.
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    But back to my problem
    of space-traffic map:
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    what if you only had information
    from the US government?
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    Well, in that case, that's what
    your space-traffic map would look like.
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    But what do the Russians think?
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    That looks significantly different.
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    Who's right?
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    Who's wrong?
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    What should I believe?
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    What could I trust?
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    This is part of the issue.
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    In the absence of this framework
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    to monitor space-actor behavior,
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    to monitor activity in space --
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    where these objects are located --
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    to reconcile these inconsistencies
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    and make this knowledge commonplace,
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    we actually risk losing the ability
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    to use space for humanity's benefit.
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    Thank you very much.
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    (Applause and cheers)
Title:
The world's first crowdsourced space traffic monitoring system
Speaker:
Moriba Jah
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Team:
closed TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
05:29

English subtitles

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