Tracking the International Space Station Using InfluxDB

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When I started my internship here at InfluxData, I was told that, in addition to my day-to-day work, I could start a personal side-project to work on throughout the summer – something that would help me get acquainted with the TICK Stack, and teach me something new in the process.

Inspired by the recent collaboration between NASA and SpaceX, I decided that it might be fun (and educational) to track the position of the International Space Station, write that data to an InfluxDB instance, and draw it on a map. I found a public API with the data that I wanted, so I wrote a small program that queried that data, formatted it as line protocol, and wrote it to my local OSS instance.

Then I hit a snag. I wanted to draw the stored coordinates to a world map, but by definition, a time series database is something that keeps track of data where the x-axis is almost always time. I was left with something that looked like this:

track international space station influxdb

While this graph is interesting and informative in its own way, it doesn’t tell quite the same story as a map. I was disappointed to realize that there was nothing in InfluxData’s offerings that let me plot latitude and longitude measurements as coordinates over time.

That is, until I was introduced to Flux’s experimental geo package by our Vice President of Products, Tim Hall. During his talk at InfluxDays, Tim walked through the various additions to Telegraf and InfluxDB over the past 6 months or so which lay the foundation for geo-temporal data acquisition and analysis. (You can see that video here…time index [23:50-33:00]). But Tim also gave me access to an experimental InfluxDB instance that had an exciting new visualization which provided just what I was looking for! Using these new tools, setting up a dashboard that accomplished what I wanted was as easy as clicking a few buttons, and writing this Flux script:

flux geo package

And here’s the map:

flux geo package map

As mentioned above, the features are still experimental, and there may be some kinks to work out before they’re ready for general adoption, but the engineers here are clearly working hard on this, and the results so far are promising. Stay tuned for updates!