Skip to main content

Wayfinder Tracks Orbital Debris with CesiumJS

Privateer Space maps satellites and orbital debris to make space safe and more predictable for cosmic exploration and the connectivity we expect on Earth. Privateer’s Wayfinder app uses CesiumJS to provide open access and near real-time visualization of tracked objects in Earth’s orbit.

Privateer’s data engine, Wayfinder, is an open-access and near real-time visualization of satellites and debris in low Earth orbit. Courtesy Privateer Space.

Maui-based Privateer was founded by people with names you might recognize: Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder; Alex Fielding, tech entrepreneur; and Moriba Jah, UT Austin professor of aerospace engineering and engineering mechanics, for whom space situational awareness is an environmental issue. 

Orbital debris threatens functional spacecraft, any humans on those craft, and, in the case of larger debris that hits our planet, ecosystems here at home. According to NASA, more than 27,000 pieces of human-made objects are currently being tracked as they orbit Earth, and most of those are items larger than a softball. Including pieces as small as 1 mm, the number is likely closer to 100 million.

Crow’s Nest, Privateer’s collision risk assessment tool.

Crow’s Nest—Privateer’s collision risk assessment tool. Courtesy Privateer Space.

Wayfinder includes space object visualization, trajectory analysis, and collision prediction services for space operators, academic researchers, and citizens. The app aggregates data from a variety of sources, which are used to produce a single cohesive map of space objects. This dynamic data is displayed as points in CesiumJS at runtime, accurately showing the positions of satellites and tens of thousands of pieces of space junk in near real time.

“Cesium’s API has allowed us to easily do things that would be extremely complicated using alternative options. For example, Cesium’s entity positioning logic is very flexible, and made it possible for us to easily position and visualize per-satellite labels and interactive UI elements,” said Raph Martelles, Privateer Space’s Principal Software Engineer.

You can join the scientists and citizens raising awareness of orbital debris by exploring or integrating Wayfinder. The latest version of the app was released April 11, 2023.

To build your own interactive web app using CesiumJS, peruse the guides in our Learn Center.