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Space Junk: Every Satellite in Earth Orbit

I recently came across a very nice interactive data visualization by David Yanofsky and Tim Fernholz. The visualization shows, in a vertical layout, every satellite in earth orbit. I spent quite a bit of time interacting with it and thought it was a fantastic piece of work. Here’s a screen capture.

But, as is often the case, once the visualization had answered some of my questions, I found myself with additional questions which it could not answer. In a business context, this is always my goal. I start out by delivering some analytics product that helps to answer a few questions, in hope that those answers will breed better questions, leading to a cycle of what I call “better answers to better questions.” But, in this case, I couldn’t exactly ask David and Tim to update their visualization for me, so I decided to answer my questions with my own version.

The biggest thing I wanted to know was how satellites look when actually in orbit around Earth. What if we zoomed out and, instead of a vertical layout, showed the satellites around the Earth? By doing this, I felt we’d get a better feel for the actual distances of the satellites. So, I found some data from the Union of Concerned Scientists and set out to create my own visualization. Here’s the result. Click on the image to view the interactive version.

Ken Flerlage, December 9, 2017

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