Interim Report

Team Number: TEAM 113
Area of Science: PHYSICS
Project Title: SPACE TRAX
Project Abstract: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/abstracts/113.html
Interim Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/interims/113.html
Final Report: http://mode.lanl.k12.nm.us/97.98/finalreports/113/finalreport.html

Space Trax The Tracking of Satellites in Orbit

The goal of our project this year is to create a program that will track satellites in their orbits using two line elements (tle). The user will be allowed to choose how many and which kind of satellite he/she wishes to view. The user will also be able to select the time period of the orbit. The orbits will be displayed along with a three dimensional model of the Earth. We plan to record data for latitude, longitude, and altitude from the program for a projected period of up to five years.

We have conducted numerous searches for information using such Internet applications as Netscape and Lynx, and have consulted several scientists who are experts in the field of astrophysics. One such scientist was C. David Eagle, who co-wrote a paper called "Efficient Computation of Satellite Visibility Periods" and helped design such programs as GRMOTION and SATGRAPH. We have also been in contact, through email, with an IBM programmer by the name of Warren Hagee. He is advising us on the graphics display and integration with the Internet.

One thing we have learned from this experience is that we are not the first to attempt this project, and there are several different kinds of programs already out there that track satellites for the government and private investors. But it is our turn to try our hand at this celestial mapping, and to do so we have been looking for an equation that involves not only two line elements but also the Earth's gravitational pull and deterioration of orbits. To our surprise and chagrin, there are more than one, many more. At the moment we are still deciphering each one and trying to decide which most suits our needs.

To help us in that respect we have downloaded and acquired a few incomplete programs in Pascal and C, using parts of the source code to relate how these equations can be used. Some, like the program we plan to build, deal with two line elements, which contain the mathematical constants for the elliptic orbits of satellites using Kepler's theories. Others use basic formulas for gravitational pulls between the Earth and moon. Still others use methods we are totally unfamiliar with. The program we are diligently working with right now uses tle's, and we have be able to compile and link it. It contains only text output and has no graphics. Even though it was written by someone else, at least it will provide an example and starting point for our own program.

We believe our project to be successful so far. No, our program has not been started, and yet we feel it has been successful as a learning experience. The newcomer's, Danielle, Teresa, and Alexis, now know how to telnet and logon to a remote server. They have acquired basic knowledge of C and C++ language programming. They have begun to use and understand UNIX, and have experienced the hassles, frustrations, and eventual joys of using ftp. Teresa and Alexis have especially enjoyed learning the makings of a homepage, and browsing the Internet for information on our project. The veteran's, Penny and Jennifer, have used this time to brush up on their programming and researching skills. Penny has also learned a great deal about creating and maintaining a working website. Jennifer and the whole team is discovering new things about how satellites work and all the math that is used to build their software.

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New Mexico High School Supercomputing Challenge