How Would Asset Tracking Work In Space?

How Would Asset Tracking Work In Space?

Asset tracking has developed in leaps and bounds in recent years. Now, finding where your fixed assets are, who has them and how they’re behaving is easy… On Earth.

How would asset tracking work in the final frontier, space? While difficult, tracking location and running audits in space actually isn’t impossible.

This isn’t to say the capabilities would be like-for-like as they are on Earth. For example, the lack of smartphones may cause difficulties. However, smartphones are still usable in space, as are laptops, radioactive interference merely shortens the lifespan.

So, how would asset tracking work in space?

Space Asset Tracking


Space Location Tracking

For space location tracking to work in a similar way to the way it does on Earth, celestial objects or any man-made space tech need to be tracked relative to an object. This becomes much simpler when what you’re tracking is in the orbit of said object.

In other words, there is no x, y or z axes in space where there are on Earth. Any object on Earth has a latitude, a longitude and an altitude. This is how conventional GPS asset management works – it gives you where an asset is in terms of x,y,z or latitude, longitude and altitude.

Therefore, to track an object in space, we can use the same logic where if something is 65 miles above sea level above the white house, the coordinates are 38.8977º North, 77.0365º West, and 65 miles upwards. In other words, this tracking still works relative to Earth.

However, this creates a world of difficulties as the White House will move at the same rate as the Earth’s spin and the Earth’s orbit around the sun, where these two factors will affect how easy it is to track things in space. In other words, if the White House is “still”, the x,y,z coordinates do not change, where they do for a space-craft.


Overcoming Space Tracking Difficulties

You’ll have likely heard that there’s more technology in your smartphone than put us on the moon. Therefore, how is it that your smartphone can track your IT assets but find difficulty in tracking space objects?

The answer is simple: Maths. The way you overcome location tracking difficulties within anything tracking space objects, from your smartphone to your laptops to your own imagination is with maths.

As you can still bounce signals to and from space objects, you can track them mathematically at a given moment. What does this involve? A lot of factors.

The most simple part is when you’re closer to the answer, you can bounce a signal off a space object to get a hypotenuse. Then, if you know that object’s altitude you can use Pythagoras’ theorem to find out x,y. The difficulty here is that you need to position multiple signal trackers so that none of them need to pass a signal through Earth. The signal also needs to be sent and bounce at the correct angle, as it must be a straight line to and from the tracker.

calculating orbit

Yet, to get more specific and granular you need to do the more complex maths including the speed and direction of travel, the current velocity of the ship, the angle of the orbit, the shape of the orbit to find out the altitude of the ship. Once you know all of this, you’ve calculated the position anyway.

Therefore, it’s essentially “find x”, “find y”, “find z” and, using tracking technologies, you can fill in the gaps to reduce the number of unknown variables.

This can still present difficulties. For example, as the ISS was built in space, there were a lot of unknowns based on whether or not the GPS receivers they built will work. It is still the best way to fill in the gaps as now, instead of having pages and pages and pages of formulae to track every element involved in space travel (including pitch, yaw, velocity, etc.), we can use technology to feed us that information.


Using Asset Management Features In Space

So, we’ve established how to track the where of the objects. Now, how do general asset management features work in space?

First and foremost, you won’t be able to use last seen location tracking or 4G as, if you’re using a phone in space, it isn’t communicating with any cell towers. Satellite phones are possible to use, but they may not offer you as much as smartphones.

There are two things to establish, though. First of all, you can use WiFi in space. Second of all, you can use smartphones in space. The caveats are that the WiFi is going to be slower than at that “never again” budget hotel and your phone’s usable life will be lessened by radioactive interference.

However, what this means is that asset tracking apps are usable in space, as well as web portals, provided your spacecraft has WiFi. If they have offline capabilities, even better, as dodgy wifi is mitigated by a more complete workflow from scanning a tag to reporting an issue.

There is still no word on whether alien spacecraft use WiFi, however, so should you get abducted, there are two main reasons why you wouldn’t be able to use what3words.

alien asset tracking


Lab Equipment, Healthcare Equipment, And Other Space-Bound Assets

So, what kind of assets would you need to track in space? The answer could be anything, as it is on Earth. For example, on the ISS many plant-based experiments are happening as they are on Earth.

So what would you need to track? Asset data, such as success rates, who is in charge of which assets, where they’ve been and where they are. Any IT asset management may be needed, or, any fixed asset management.

The fact that you can’t track specific, GPS locations is mitigated by the fact that it’s much more difficult (but still entirely possible) to lose something in a confined space, but GPS tracking of the ship itself is still possible.

So, much like on Earth, asset management software is still helpful at building an audit trail, accountability trail and for indicating who is using what, when, and where.


itemit’s Down To Earth Asset Tracking Software

itemit’s asset tracking software prides itself on being simple, usable and effective at tracking and managing your asset data. This is why it’s used by hundreds worldwide tracking anything from fixed assets to IT assets to tools and equipment.

The app was created and is owned by RedBite Solutions where our motto is that we solve the world’s most challenging asset tracking problems.

Therefore, if you think you have a challenge that can’t be overcome by anyone on Earth or in space then send it to us and we’ll consult with you on the best ways to bring your vision to life.

We’re experts in asset tracking, including RFID asset management, GPS tracking and barcode and QR code asset management. The itemit app allows you to use all of these technologies, off-the-shelf, and couple them with a suite of helpful features that work on Earth and in space.

To find out more, or if you have any out of this world asset tracking problems to solve, send them our way at team@itemit.com. We’ll be happy to help you bring your vision to life.

Space Asset Tracking

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