ISS Globe

Prepared By arielwaldman for sciencehackday

ISS Globe

Astronauts are continuously orbiting the Earth – sometimes you can see a fair glint of their spacecraft, the International Space Station, overhead on a clear night when they happen to fly past your location. What if you could always see where they were without going outside or opening your laptop?

The hack was made by open-source rocket scientists who launch small rockets for fun. Knowing that there is huge amounts of activity in space on a daily basis, but most of it goes unseen, the goal was to make this much more visible. 

The team of sciencehackers used a translucent globe, two hobby servos, a MakerBot for 3D printing a few gears, a Teensy microcontroller and a laser that was mounted inside of the globe. Firmware controlled interaction between a laptop and the servos and a Python client controlled interaction between the microcontroller and the servos. The end product was a globe with a glowing red dot that would point out where over the world the International Space Station was throughout the day.  

The ISS Globe continuously shows you where the International Space Station (ISS), something which passes overhead unnoticed, is at all times. 

Everyday objects

The idea of an everyday object in your home, like a globe, that would provide a little visual indicator of where the ISS was at any point of time, was seeded a year previously with a hack called the ‘Near Earth Asteroid Lamp’, an lamp that lights up every time an asteroid passed by the Earth. Inspired by that idea, one of the team, Nathan Bergey, went on to created the ISS-Notify, an ambient device that would light up every time the International Space Station was overhead. By the time the next Science Hack Day rolled around, Nathan wanted to create an even more elaborate device that would highlight where the ISS was around the globe, and not just when it was over your location.

ISS-Notify became a Kickstarter that got well funded, but the globe itself hasn’t been used beyond the hackday. Despite being a cool idea, it now lives in a garage waiting to be resurrected someday!

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Acknowledgements & Credits


Nathan Bergey, Steven Davis, Glenn LeBrasseur, Nicolas Weidinger, Rachel Weidinger


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