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How to Track and Map the International Space Station with Python - It's All in a Rest API Call


Let's keep exploring interesting and socially impactful data sets. But instead of looking down, let's turn our gaze upwards towards the sky! Welcome to 5 Minutes for data science.

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In [1]:
from IPython.display import Image
Image(filename='viralml-iss-tracking.png', width='60%')

Space Station Mapping

Let's keep exploring insteresting and socially impactful data sets. But instead of looking down, let's look up! If you have young ones, this may be of interest to them and may work as an interesting bridge to leure young ones, if you have kids, to the power of python using the magic of space. It is certainly fascinating to me and to my friends. But, am still working on it with my own kids and I'll keep trying...

It's actually really easy to get the position of the International Space Station, it is available through a REST API call, that simple - and that API yields even more than just that i.

International Space Station Current Location

The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.

The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, physics, astronomy, and other fields.

This is all from Wikipedia.

Interesting facts

  • It was lauched over 2 decadeas on November 20th, 1998
  • It will operate up to 2030
  • It has two bathrooms, a gymnasium and a 360-degree bay window - wouldn't we all love to take a peek!
  • it orbits 15.5 perday... It flies at 4.791 miles per second. That's fast enough to go to the Moon and back in about a day.
  • Some 230 people have visited it,

Welcome to the ViralML show and 5 mintues for data sceince.

  • it has a capactity for 6 people on board... they have to exercise some two hours a day to keep their muscles from atrophiating, oh and who are they?


In [2]:
### Who is in space right now?

import requests
r = requests.get(url='')
{'people': [{'name': 'Christina Koch', 'craft': 'ISS'},
  {'name': 'Alexander Skvortsov', 'craft': 'ISS'},
  {'name': 'Luca Parmitano', 'craft': 'ISS'},
  {'name': 'Andrew Morgan', 'craft': 'ISS'},
  {'name': 'Oleg Skripochka', 'craft': 'ISS'},
  {'name': 'Jessica Meir', 'craft': 'ISS'}],
 'number': 6,
 'message': 'success'}
In [3]:
import pandas as pd
In [4]:
Image(filename='satsig_explanation.png', width='60%')
In [ ]:
# take a lat lon and return a pixel coordinate 
def translate_geo_to_pixels(longitude, latitude, max_x_px, max_y_px):
    # y = -90 to 90
    # x = -180 to 180
    scale_x = (((longitude + 180) / 360) * max_x_px)
    scale_y = (((latitude - 90) / 180) * max_y_px)
    return scale_x, scale_y
translate_geo_to_pixels(20,90, 500, 250)
In [5]:
# get international space station geo location

def get_space_station_location():
    r = requests.get(url='')
    space_station_location = (r.json())

    space_station_longitude = float(space_station_location['iss_position']['longitude'])
    print('space_station_longitude', space_station_longitude)
    space_station_latitude = float(space_station_location['iss_position']['latitude'])
    print('space_station_latitude', space_station_latitude)
    return (space_station_longitude, space_station_latitude)

In [6]:
# you will need to pip install Basemap -
from mpl_toolkits.basemap import Basemap
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt
In [8]:
space_station_longitude -74.8149
space_station_latitude 25.7436
(-74.8149, 25.7436)
In [14]:
# Set the dimension of the figure
plt.figure(figsize=(16, 8))

# Make the background map
m=Basemap(llcrnrlon=-180, llcrnrlat=-65,urcrnrlon=180,urcrnrlat=80)
m.drawmapboundary(fill_color='#A6CAE0', linewidth=0)
m.fillcontinents(color='grey', alpha=0.3)
m.drawcoastlines(linewidth=0.1, color="white")

# Add a point per position

space_station_longitude, space_station_latitude = get_space_station_location()
m.scatter(space_station_longitude, space_station_latitude, s=200, alpha=0.4,color='blue')

plt.title('Internation Space Station Location' , fontsize=30) 
space_station_longitude -65.9858
space_station_latitude 15.5454
Text(0.5, 1.0, 'Internation Space Station Location')