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ISS-Above Tells You When the International Space Station is Overhead (Video)

Roblimo posted about 6 months ago | from the look-up-in-the-sky-it's-a-bird-it's-a-plane-it's-a-space-station dept.

Space 59

It's a device, and quite a small one, based on the Raspberry Pi. It tells you when the ISS is visible from your part of the world and when it will soon be visible so you can grab the kids and dogs and run outside to wave at the astronauts. Or just to watch the closest thing humanity has to a space colony orbit the Earth. Liam Kennedy, ISS-Above's creator, points out that the ISS passes over most of the inhabited parts of the Earth five or six times a day, which is more than most people know. And about ISS-Above and Kickstarter: It's too late to climb on that wagon, and it already was when this interview was recorded in mid-May. But don't despair. Liam managed to raise $17,731 -- which was far more than his $5000 goal. Can you buy one of these things in its various manifestations? Yes. But you need to look long and hard at the ISS-Above website to spot the all-caps word HERE that takes you to the order page. Liam also points out that you can get all kinds of smartphone apps that will tell you where the ISS is at any given moment, but the ISS-Above has an advantage or two over those apps that will be revealed only to those who watch the video or read the transcript. (Alternate Video Link)

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Sombody make an NSA Above You version (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174327)

Just a few lines of code the writes "RIGHT NOW".

Great! (5, Funny)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 6 months ago | (#47174335)

I was just thinking "I don't own enough expensive single-use gadgets whose meagre functionality could be replaced by a few lines of code."

Re:Great! (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 6 months ago | (#47174367)

I think a shock collar hit every time the ISS is overhead would ensure we don't ever get too complacent about it.

Re:Great! (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about 6 months ago | (#47175597)

Nothing like spending well over a hundred bucks for something that can be done with a free app on my existing Android device (that I paid a lot less for). Pick up a cheap pre-paid Android cell phone, and don't buy the optional air-time card. Load a free app (by wifi). If you can resist the urge to do anything else with your Android device then you'll have about the same thing, except that it will have a better color display that can even show the ISS path in the sky and will cost less.

Re:Great! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 6 months ago | (#47176179)

For about 6 months now, I've had an Android app that does this for free.

Re:Great! (1)

WarJolt (990309) | about 6 months ago | (#47177477)

I was just thinking "I don't own enough expensive single-use gadgets whose meagre functionality could be replaced by a few lines of code."

Yeah and this one comes with it's very own useless HD h.264 video decoder and HDMI port.

Nice advertisement (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174353)

There are a ton of mobile apps that do this for free. How much did Slashdot make for running this advertisement?

Re:Nice advertisement (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174785)

All ads on Slashdot are labeled "advertisement" or "sponsored content," just as all users who smell bad are labeled "Anonymous Coward."

Re:Nice advertisement (1)

gmagill (105538) | about 6 months ago | (#47174831)

I think it's nice to see applications for the Pi. Let grandma use the ISS locator on her iPhone - anyone who wants to experiment will find more usefulness with projects like this one.

Being nice doesn't make it an ad (4, Interesting)

Roblimo (357) | about 6 months ago | (#47174895)

And I use http://spotthestation.nasa.gov... [nasa.gov] myself, and don't want a $1500 electric bicycle, but there are people who like cute little LED gadgets and have $150 to spend on them, and who want hipster-cool, retro-styled, expensive electric bicycles. So why should I knock them?

And 100th repeat: Slashdot doesn't get paid for running positive stories about a person or device or whatever. Sometimes it's nice to look at something and say, "Y'know, that's kind of cool and the person making it is kind of likeable." That's pretty much Tim's thought process at a show or conference when he points his camcorder at someone or something.

Re:Being nice doesn't make it an ad (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 months ago | (#47175615)

And 100th repeat: Slashdot doesn't get paid for running positive stories about a person or device or whatever. Sometimes it's nice to look at something and say, "Y'know, that's kind of cool and the person making it is kind of likeable." That's pretty much Tim's thought process at a show or conference when he points his camcorder at someone or something.

Aren't shills for Slashdot Corporate supposed to have the green circle-and-slash by their name and UID?

The point is, we don't care whether Slashdot Corporate gets paid or not. This isn't particularly cool and we don't give a rat whether the person making it is likeable or not. We care when Slashdot's home page is used to advertise a piece of crap that nobody with an IQ above room temperature would be interested in.

Re:Being nice doesn't make it an ad (1)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | about 6 months ago | (#47177117)

That's pretty much Tim's thought process [snip...]

That's giving him an awful lot of credit.

Re:Being nice doesn't make it an ad (1)

AmIAnAi (975049) | about 6 months ago | (#47178061)

The problem here is the number of Kickstarter related stories running at the moment that have little to zero interest for Slashdot readers. This leads to two possible conclusions, poor editorial selection or paid-for stories. Being a long term reader I am sure it is down to the former, but I have to say that there has been an increase in the number of posts with seriously questionable content that I fully understand people thinking there is a financial motive. Maybe if the Slashdot editors started listening to the readers and started editing... no as I say, I've been on here too long now.

That's the spirit (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about 6 months ago | (#47178183)

Of course most of us don't need that gadget, but it's cool to see an older nerd like that picking up nerd-skills and making cool nerd stuff.
Instead of saying "that is cute, but Simpsons did it" you can also say like "you must have had a lot of fun making it" and enjoy his enthusiasm :)

Ok, well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174359)

But even having those, they really just don’t give you the special presence of really knowing where it is.
 
So the advantage is some kind of touchy-feely new age warmth of a "special presence of really knowing where it is"? I fail to see that to be 100% honest and I've seen the ISS pass over me hundreds if not more than a thousand times. My app or the heavens above site works just fine, thankyouverymuch.
 
Maybe I'm just not putting something together here but this almost seems pointless. It sounds like a neat project for the high school computer lab but it's certainly not much more.

Re:Ok, well... (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about 6 months ago | (#47176871)

Now, if this aimed a laser pointer at the ISS so you knew *exactly* the direction...

Does the ISS count for the $10,000 fine?

Inventing the wheel next? (1)

RiscIt (95258) | about 6 months ago | (#47174371)

I'm pretty sure there's an app for that....

Re:Inventing the wheel next? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174425)

Michelin, Pirelli, Dunlop, Yokohama, etc. reinvent the wheel every single year. And that's not a bad thing!

Re:Inventing the wheel next? (1)

rasmusbr (2186518) | about 6 months ago | (#47174493)

Yes, but a program on a computer is a pretty boring way to reinvent the ISS tracker. A fun way would be to invent a mechanical device that predicts when the ISS will be overhead.

Re:Inventing the wheel next? (1)

CurryCamel (2265886) | about 6 months ago | (#47174759)

Write the word "never" (in your local language) on a piece of paper, and that mechanical device tells pretty accurately (n most parts of the world) when the ISS is overhead.

Re:Inventing the wheel next? (1)

Liam Kennedy (3684941) | about 5 months ago | (#47243517)

Actually - you don't know WHAT you are talking about., The ISS rises above the horizon for 90% of the worlds population 5-7 times every day - and it rises above 30 degrees in altitude 2-4 times every day for those 90% too. So... it really is in your skies far more frequently than you would think. Which - is - the - whole - point of a dedicated device like the ISS-Above. Those free apps mostly predict when it is visible to the naked eye - WHICH IS COOL - but happens much less frequently (4-5 times a month for most at "convenient" times in the evening)

(Gets out the Galaxy S3) (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | about 6 months ago | (#47174385)

http://www.isstracker.com/ [isstracker.com]
I guess I won't be buying one.

Re:(Gets out the Galaxy S3) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174431)

Get back to us when you get a real Android phone.

The problem with kickstarter (2)

sunking2 (521698) | about 6 months ago | (#47174403)

There's only so much disposable income to go around. And then some of it gets wasted on stuff like this.

Re:The problem with kickstarter (1)

Gavagai80 (1275204) | about 6 months ago | (#47177151)

Better than the psychic hotline.

Hmm... (5, Insightful)

Ericular (876826) | about 6 months ago | (#47174487)

Let's see...pay $150 for something to blink an LED to alert a potential sighting for a single orbiting object vs. paying $0 for your smartphone to blink an LED to alert a potential sighting for virtually all significant objects in orbit.

This is the most blatant slashvertisment yet.

Re:Hmm... (1)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 6 months ago | (#47174545)

But but but ... Raspberry Pi!!!

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174613)

If you didn't want Slashdot to suck, you'd stop visiting so they can go ahead and go out of business. It's not going to get better.

Unfortunately too many stupid, paranoid people moved from Slashdot to Soylent, so that sucks too, but not nearly as badly as Slashdot.

We're pretty much down to AnandTech and Cnet for sane stories and comments.

Re:Hmm... (1)

bitt3n (941736) | about 6 months ago | (#47175315)

Let's see...pay $150 for something to blink an LED to alert a potential sighting for a single orbiting object vs. paying $0 for your smartphone to blink an LED to alert a potential sighting for virtually all significant objects in orbit.

This is the most blatant slashvertisment yet.

Well to be fair, this will get interesting once enough people hook these devices to high-powered lasers that the ISS is constantly bombarded and ends up having to spray paint all its windows.

re: Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47176083)

And if I don't have a smart phone, what is going to blink my LED?

Yes I don't have a smart phone. I have a desk phone for 9 hours a day and a land-line at home... Now if this device was $5 it would be fun to have. Above $10.... never! That is beer money!

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47185739)

When I first heard about this (or a similar project), I hoped it would be something like this: iridium flare tracker [fbrtech.com] , i.e. that it would point to the object of interest with a nice green laser pointer, nut just quietly blink in a corner. Nowadays, a RasPi, a GPS module and two servo motors should be enough to implement this, and it should be within the 150$ budget. Add a few $ for a display and possibley buttons / joysticks to pick anything heavens above [heavens-above.com] deems interesting, or identify things.

Nice idea (1)

Xenna (37238) | about 6 months ago | (#47174505)

I've seen it around before. There could also be a market for airplane models that light up when a similar plane is ovehead. Say a 747 model that lights up whenever a 747 is near. There are plenty of websites that track planes.

Re:Nice idea (1)

Ericular (876826) | about 6 months ago | (#47174531)

It just seems like a hard sell to pay that kind of price for functionality that is already free on devices that a large population has on their person during all waking hours.

Re:Nice idea (1)

Xenna (37238) | about 6 months ago | (#47174603)

Think of it as a piece of interactive art to dazzle your visitors with and it suddenly seems like a really good deal.

Re:Nice idea (1)

Roblimo (357) | about 6 months ago | (#47174979)

Exactly. Just as I look at the $1500+ hipster electric bicycles as art/lifestyle pieces, because I can buy an electric bike for $550 or a conversion kit for less than $300. Or, since I ride a bike for exercise, and I live in flat Florida, I can just peddle the thing.

Advantage? (2)

PPH (736903) | about 6 months ago | (#47174533)

but the ISS-Above has an advantage or two over those apps that will be revealed only to those who watch the video or read the transcript.

Let me guess: It plays this [youtube.com] whenever the ISS passes overhead.

Re:Advantage? (1)

Fuzzums (250400) | about 6 months ago | (#47178203)

I prefer your over this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
I have to admit it's not hard to find a better version...

But mine plays Gangnam Style ;)

Of course, (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174581)

this is so you can shine lasers at it.

$99 Hp android tablet (0)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 6 months ago | (#47174599)

could do this and not be a giant hack, AND it will have a full and integrated control scheme in a nice package with a warranty. I have had this app on my android device for at least 2 years. I have 4 RasPis and a ton of 16x2 LCD displays, Ethernet arduinos, etc and none of it comes close to a nice cheap android solution for this function. You could even go full AOSP with such a simple function.

Or just get an email notice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174619)

I use http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ from NASA. Give it a country, region and city and it will email you the morning of a possible sighting with the details of start time, rise direction, set direction and apogee, length of visibility.

Oh yeah, and it's free.

No GPS?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174683)

Maybe I'm missing something, but this thing doesn't even have a GPS? You have to tell it where you are? I'm not watching the video to figure out what the special advantages are. This seems like a fun project, but I'm not sure why the hell anyone would buy one.

Why? (1)

swillden (191260) | about 6 months ago | (#47174707)

Why? [google.com]

(Note that I don't know if that's the best app for ISS detection. It's just the first one that came up.)

Zero Cost Alternative (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47174755)

Free and IMNSHO better solution:

goto Heavens-above.com
Enter your location by clicking on "Change your observing location".
Click on ISS at the top of Satellites list.

You get a list of visible passes, the more negative the brightness (magnitude) number, the easier to see the ISS passing overhead.
Click a pass listing and you get a star map showing constellations, times, compass directions, and path of ISS through the sky.

Go outside. Watch ISS.

Re:Zero Cost Alternative (1)

Cruciform (42896) | about 6 months ago | (#47175013)

And you get to track several other objects as well. Once I moved out to the country that site was open on my desktop every day.

Re:Zero Cost Alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47177147)

Heavens-Above is a great site for many reasons. Iridium flares are fun if you want to play the Connecticut Yankee [wikipedia.org] w/your friends and neighbors.

I've seen these guys before (1)

dpidcoe (2606549) | about 6 months ago | (#47174843)

I've seen these guys before at maker faire. It's a neat idea, but I never really understood what was so special about it compared to just downloading a smartphone app or internet or (*gasp*) maybe even reading up on how to do the math and figuring out where it is on your own.

heavens-above.com (1)

jeti (105266) | about 6 months ago | (#47175017)

And if you don't want to spend your money on a gadget, you can get localized pass predictions from heavens-above.com .

Shut Up and Take My Money!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47175179)

Just kidding...had you going then.

ISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47175233)

ISS Detector Satellite Tracker, is an excellent app for android mobile devices

The path to success? (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#47175349)

1. Find an app that does something vaguely cool and science-y
2. Replicate about 50% of its functionality with a microcomputer that's far less convenient to use than a phone
3. ???
4. Profit!

Hey everyone, I've just built a hefty box with an Arduino in it that lets you play Flappy Bird on a 16x16 grid of LEDs. One at a time please, no shoving.

But it uses the RaspberrryPi !!! (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 6 months ago | (#47175743)

*fap*

No wireless, less space than a Nomad. Lame.

Satellite Flybys app available for Android & i (1)

klek (1237566) | about 6 months ago | (#47175807)

http://spaceweather.com/flybys... [spaceweather.com]

Which also tells you about loads of other object floating above your head, plus has audible alerts (if you want them) for any particular object.
  As so many other bits of software previous mentioned also do.
Why acquire a piece of not-practically-portable hardware to do what you can set the mobe in your pocket to do?
Weird.

This Isn't Hard (1)

Greyfox (87712) | about 6 months ago | (#47175979)

The main thing you need is a consistent source of ephemeris data. I've gone poking around a little with Google and haven't really found a good one. There are two or three NASA services that claim to provide the data, but they're never responding whenever I check. I suppose if you're a bit more motivated than I am (my motivation is currently at a "meh" level,) you could probably find one.

Re:This Isn't Hard (1)

Ash-Fox (726320) | about 6 months ago | (#47176143)

As an amateur radio operator, I track the ISS (and other satellites) using keplerian elements. AMSAT ones are accurate enough for the ISS:

http://www.amsat.org/amsat-new... [amsat.org]

Re: This Isn't Hard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47176651)

Celestrak is free and up to date. Space-track.org is free after a simple registration and is official.

Why Bother? (1)

kenwd0elq (985465) | about 6 months ago | (#47177333)

SpaceWeather.com has a "Flybys " website; enter your zip code (USA) or Lat/Long (Anyplace) to see a list of overflights of the ISS and a couple dozen other satellites that are bright enough to see.

http://www.spaceweather.com/fl... [spaceweather.com]

The web site is free; they have an Android and iOS app for five bucks, I think, that sounds an alarm.

More than good enough. Although I can see how designing your own device and programming it yourself is more impressive than buying an app or navigating to a web site.

Advantages? (1)

PhuCknuT (1703) | about 6 months ago | (#47182235)

> ISS-Above has an advantage or two over those apps

But the advantages it supposedly has have nothing to do with it being a dedicted piece of hardware, and could be implemented better and cheaper in an app...

ISSAbove inventor responds to comments. :-) (1)

Liam Kennedy (3684941) | about 6 months ago | (#47182781)

Hey Slashdotters

Thanks for all the comments - I truly love seeing the reaction to this post about the (my) ISS-Above.

I just want you all to know I appreciate everything each one of you has said about me and about the ISS-Above. Very entertaining (and in many cases - a very appropriate reaction to a rather specialized and expensive device).

I'm not responding here to try to persuade any of you to have a different opinion. I do however want to at least speak to some of the misunderstandings that I see here - for the benefit of others who find this post and would otherwise be left with a very skewed view of what the device is (I wonder how many actually took the time to view the video?).

Firstly I built this device initially simply as something to give to my grandkids in England in December (I selfishly want my grandkids to see me as "the cool grandpa"). Instead of a "star" or "fairy" sitting on the top of their Christmas tree my grand-kids had an ISS-Above . They were all pretty excited to get one (and still are)

The point is the device makes a fuss whenever the ISS is above your horizon. It's not just about letting you know when it is visible. It flashes in the day-time - in the middle of the night (it apparently scares some peoples dogs/cats when it goes off in the middle of the night).

For me - this is about drawing attention to the fact we have this incredible feat of human achievement - the only permanently manned human outpost in space - and that it's above your location way more often than you actually even knew. So it's about inspiring awareness - and also about inspiring young kids to take a look at the incredibly versatile Single Board Computer paradigm (the Raspberry Pi).

Those free apps are all awesome (I have ALL OF THEM - plus some paid ones too) but they just don't do it for me. They take too much "care and feeding" for me to actually use consistently.. and I don't need yet another app on my phone that beeps and buzzes to let me know something else. The ISS-Above sits on a shelf - in your house / office / coffee shop and simply does it's job of reminding you (and anyone who can see it) when the ISS is passing by. Anyone within sight of it can see it. It inspires a greater understanding of and appreciation for what we are doing in space (this confirmed from lots of feedback and comments I have received from users of the ISS-Above all around the world).

One other thing the ISS-Above does is that it also autotweets whenever the ISS comes particularly close to your location. That's also a CRITICAL part of my vision. This is a two-way thing - it's both to have us down here be more present to the wonderful stuff going on in orbit - plus it's also to show NASA and all the astronauts up there how we KNOW they are there and appreciate what they are doing. NASA Johnson (mission control for the ISS) actually asked me to make sure the tweets tag them.

That autotweet can be customized. Now that I have shipped nearly 300 units worldwide there are a lot of tweets going out "to" the space station every day. I think of it like a world-wide wave to the space station. Check some of them out at http://twitter.com/issaboveyou [twitter.com]

When I started building this I had NO expectation that ANYONE would find it particularly useful or interesting enough to buy one. There was some press about the device (e.g. Reddit / Hackaday / Universetoday / CNET / TWiT.tv) and I started to get emails and questions from people who said they wanted one. That's when I was persuaded to create a Kickstarter. It surprised the heck out of me when I found out how many people wanted one. All the Kickstarter orders have been shipped (probably the fastest Kickstarter fulfillment in history) and including orders I received after the Kickstarter closed there are close to 300 units worldwide now.

So - yes - the ISS-Above may not be for you. But then I never built it for "YOU".... I built it for my own wickedly selfish reasons and it just so happens my vision does actually match with quite a few other people around the world who happen to share that same vision.

Next version that is in Beta right now pushes out the live HD video feed from the ISS [ustream.tv] via the Raspberry Pi's HDMI port whenever it is in daylight. That becomes especially relevant during a daytime pass over your location. The ISS-Above does it's flashy/blinky thing and you also get to watch it pass OVER your location at the same time (most Apps concentrate only on visible passes at Night - so you would miss this). NEAT? I think so! I also superimpose additional data about the ISS over that video (so it becomes even more useful than the straight Ustream video from NASA.

Finally a little factual correction. I have no idea where the price of $150 comes from.. The PiGlow version is $130 now (during the Kickstarter it was $125). If you already have a Raspberry Pi you can get the SD card for it at $42.

That's it for now. If you want to find out more - or have any additional questions or observations you want to share I would be happy to answer them.

Liam Kennedy
ISSAbove.com [issabove.com]

Re:ISSAbove inventor responds to comments. :-) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47184593)

Hi :D

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