The 17th Annual Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies Conference was held on Sept. 20-23, 2016 at the Wailea Marriott Resort and Spa with a record-breaking attendance of over 680 participants.
Representing the Laboratory for Advanced Visualization & Applications, two undergraduate students Ryan Theriot, who is studying Computer Science, and Andrew Guagliardo who is studying Animation with the Academy for Creative Media exhibited a program developed by Theriot called SatWatch at the conference.
SatWatch is a virtual reality exploration of satellite orbits around Earth. By pulling publicly available TLE (Two-Line element) data from the Celestrak website, SatWatch is able to create a predictive model of orbits for a wide variety of satellites. The TLE dataset is converted using the OrbitTools library. The entire program is built in the Unity game engine, a popular tool for developing interactive applications. For hardware, SatWatch utilizes the HTC Vive, which allows a user to interact with the virtual, 3d environment using motion tracking. This combination creates a natural way for users to explore the data in an immersive experience. SatWatch is an example of a complex dataset represented in an intuitive way, allowing users to easily understand satellite orbits in an interactive visualization environment.