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Keywords: Orbit Visualization, Space Debris Visualization, C4ISR, Reference Frame Transformation
Abstract Most computer graphics visualization environments, libraries and toolkits are targeted on the challenges of the terrestrial world. Many environments struggle to model various round Earth coordinate projections and run into precision problems when numbers or distances are large. These problems are exasperated when dealing with extra-terrestrial simulations and operations. These issues literally become ones of life or death on the modern battlefield where missions rely on satellites for navigation, communication and precise ordinance delivery. Often space assets are taken for granted, where in reality the functions they enable are easily compromised, either naturally by environmental effects or deliberately through jamming and spoofing or even destruction of the asset.
For both peaceful and military reasons, it is necessary to have a highly accurate environment for modeling sophisticated missions involving space assets. For example imagine docking a spacecraft flown from the surface of Mars to an Earth orbiting transfer ship. Docking procedures have to be accurate to inches and yet distances from Earth are measured in millions of miles in complex orbits and non-Newtonian physics-based environments. Which coordinate reference frame does one use? How does one maintain accuracy when these numbers are beyond the range of current graphics libraries? How does one hit a bullet with a bullet? Anti-satellite weapons have been successfully demonstrated by several countries with projectile closure rates measured in tens of thousands MPH. Where will the debris go? How do we model this? This paper will attempt to answer questions such as these and investigate several approaches for visualizing these unique “out of this world” problems.
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