Earlier this week there was what seems to be the first large-scale collision of satellites, a commercial Iridium (satellite phone) with an older Cosmos-series satellite.
One of our partners, AGI, specializes in software for understanding these sorts of events. From their press release …
On February 10 at approximately 1656 GMT, the Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 communications satellites collided over northern Siberia. The impact between the Iridium Satellite LLC-owned satellite and the 16-year-old satellite launched by the Russian government occurred at a closing speed of well over 15,000 mph at approximately 490 miles above the face of the Earth. The low-earth orbit (LEO) location of the collision contains many other active satellites that could be at risk from the resulting orbital debris.
Let that picture roll around your head a bit … this was quite a collision, to say the least.
Over the past year or so we’ve worked with AGI to cloud-enable some of their “all on all” collision software. While they did not use our stuff in this particular simulation, it should still give you a general sense of of the type of application. Continuing with AGI’s press release:
To support the space community in better understanding this unprecedented satellite-to-satellite collision, AGI and CSSI have used their software to reconstruct the event.
In other words, as a demonstration of a broader capability AGI has created a cool video using a small portion of their “all on all” collision software. Without further adieu, here it is:
A 720p HD version of this video can be downloaded directly from AGI.
A Few Thoughts on Cloud Suitability
First of all, while it is easy to see the computational requirements of keeping track of all those orbiting objects and trying to understand what might be in danger of running into what, and when … there is also a significant data scaling problem in here as well.
Second, keeping track of “all on all” collision possibilities is not a problem that’s getting any smaller, to say the least . All you have to do is imagine the debris-field portion of this simulation to gain a certain subjective sense of the problem … sort of a space-borne version of Wall•E.
Third, while a certain amount of this processing needs to be done all the time. there will be times when collisions and other events occurr – foreseen or not – and there will definitely be a need for a spike in resources as a result.
So an application that needs scale (both data and computational) and flexibility – sounds like a perfect cloud application … good thing that it is!
Video courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (www.agi.com). Debris image courtesy of Analytical Graphics, Inc. (www.agi.com). Wall•E and Eve image courtesy of Pixar and Disney. All copyrights belong to their respective holders.