We come from stardust. Gaseous balls of light shine down on us, guiding our way. These stars have taught us when to hunt and how to navigate. They inspire a profound curiosity for exploration. But these skies are becoming polluted. Starlight is corrupted by millions of pieces of space debris orbiting in rings above our atmosphere. The satellites we rely on for every credit card swipe, Siri navigation, and cable soccer match view are in peril. And space exploration is jeopardized by the millions of tiny bits of metal moving at breakneck velocity, rendering space technologies useless.
Moriba Jah, expert in orbital mechanics and professor of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics at the University of Texas at Austin, compares navigating through space junk to crossing an interstate highway, blindfolded. We don't know what's going to hit us or when. There are no traffic cops and no traffic rules. In response, Professor Jah has created Astriagraph. The real-time tracking project charts 26,000 satellites and objects that orbit the Earth, dating back to the 1950s. This number is only going to grow. In the next five years, US companies alone (SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon) plan to launch an additional 20,000 satellites.
For humanity to continue to benefit from space services, we have to fundamentally change our ways. To survive in space, we must learn to exist in balance with the environment. Many ancient and indigenous cultures offer guidance on how to live sustainable, balanced lives. An intergenerational social contract exists within many cultures, favoring the well-being of multiple generations instead of a select few. This collective knowledge should inform our space strategies and guide our decisions about near-earth space. This is how we will safeguard our future.
ASTRIAGraph is designed and developed to be the Space Domain Digital Twin. It is a virtual replica that supports and enables Space Domain Decision Intelligence to meet the needs of the global Space Safety, Security, and Sustainability community.
ASTRIAGraph allows users to analyze multiple sources of information simultaneously, maximizing shared information about specific space domains and enabling discovery. We “Orient” the information in an ontology-based knowledge graph, modeling and curating it in a “lingua franca” for maximum relevance and utility. The power in curating information in this semantically connected fashion is that it enables linking disparate sources of information, creating vast trees of descriptions of many different elements and encouraging “discovery” from data linking. Examples of actual queries can be found here: http://astria.tacc.utexas.edu/ingestion_queries_demo
More details on the ASTRIAGraph data model can be found here: Esteva, Maria & Xu, Weijia & Simone, Nevan & Gupta, Amit & Jah, Moriba. (2020). Modeling Data Curation to Scientific Inquiry: A Case Study for Multimodal Data Integration. 235-242. https://doi.org/10.1145/3383583.3398539
There is still much to be done to develop this into a near real time, robust, and resilient architecture that could underpin space safety, security, and sustainability, but we have begun!
Transparent - Sustainable - Predictable