Tracking the ISS's position on an Atari 8-bit

FujiNet International Space Station (ISS) Tracker for Atari 8-bits

by Bill Kendrick, 2021

Seeing who is in space right now on an Atari 8-bit

About

Where is the International Space Station? Where is it going? Who's aboard it right now? Track this information from the comfort of your 8-bit Atari computer, equipped with a FujiNet device!


Purpose and Motivation

I love watching the International Space Station streak across the sky when I can, and one night in spring 2021 it was going to be visible in my location (in the Pacific Northwest) for the first time in a long while. The ISS's visibility is determined not just by when it's passing overhead, but also what time it's passing, and how clear the skies are.

One of my children came out to watch, and mentioned that astronauts had returned to Earth a few days earlier. I pointed out there were of course still some other astronauts on-board, so hit the website How Many People Are In Space Right Now? to see who was up there. I noticed they now offer a mobile app for Apple iOS, but my phone was Android, so I searched around and came across HMPAISRN. On that app's info screen, I noticed it was Open Source and and that it uses some openly-available APIs for pulling its info. So I joked on the FujiNet Discord chat server that someone should write a "How Many People Are In Space Right Now?" program for the Atari.

Later that day I decided to just do it myself, and immediately discovered that the service powering that Android app also offers another API that provides the location of the International Space Station!


Using #FujiNet ISS Tracker

When you launch the program, a title will appear. Press any key to proceed. The program will fetch the current position of the International Space Station, and position an icon of it on a map of the Earth.

ISS Position

The program will automatically fetch the ISS's position on occasion, and reposition the ISS icon on the screen. (It will leave a "trail" of previous positions, which can help give you an idea of its trajectory.) You can also press the [R] key to refresh manually.

People in Space

Press the [P] key to see what people are in space right now. The program will fetch the list of people currently in space, and show them on the screen. Press a key to see each person's name. Once all have been shown, the map will reappear. You can also press [Esc] to return to the map without reviewing everyone's name.

Tracking

Press the [T] key to display tracking positions that will show the ISS's position over the upcoming 100 minutes. (Each orbit is approximately 90 minutes, so the track will end near the current position, but a little to the west.)

The program will fetch two positions at a time, and draw them, wait a few moments (to avoid hitting the API service too quickly), and fetch two more.

Once it's done fetching and displaying the tracking positions, the program will resume its regular behavior (waiting to refresh, or for any of the keypresses described here). You can also press [Esc] to abort this process before it ends.


Download

2021-05-21 "BORDERS"

Source-code in the GitHub repository

The "atari-apps.irata.online" TNFS server (which you can access from the "CONFIG" tool that your FujiNet device boots into) usually contains a recent stable copy of the program, under the "Networking/" folder. Look for "iss.xex".


See Also

You might also enjoy my Astronomy Photo of the Day (APOD) Viewer for Atari 8-bits that uses FujiNet!


News


Credits & Contact

Code by Bill Kendrick <bill@newbreedsoftware.com>, New Breed Software.

Map image based on Equirectangular projection SW.jpg created by Daniel R. Strebe, and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Data sources: Open Notify, from Nathan Bergey, and Where The ISS At? from Bill Shupp.