The International Space Station Is Always Up There

Thanks to its high orbital inclination, the International Space Station (ISS) eventually passes over most inhabited parts of the Earth. Like other artificial satellites, though, it’s typically only visible overhead during passes at sunrise and sunset. If you’d like to have an idea of where it is beyond the times that it’s directly visible, take a look at this tabletop ISS tracking system created by [dpelgrift].

The tracker uses an Adafruit Feather inside its enclosure along with a Featherwing ESP32 WiFi co-processor. Together they direct a 3D printed rocket-shaped pointing device up and down by way of a SG90 micro-servo, while a 28BYJ-48 stepper motor provides rotation.

This setup allows it to take in all of the information required to calculate the Station’s current position. The device uses the current latitude and longitude, as well as its compass heading, and combines that with data pulled off the net to calculate which direction it should be pointing.

While it might seem like a novelty or programming challenge, this project could be useful for plenty of people who just want to keep track so they know when to run outside and see the Station pass by, or even by those who use the radio repeater aboard the ISS. The repeater on the ISS and plenty of other satellites are available to amateur radio operators for long-distance VHF and UHF communication like we’ve seen in projects like these.

9 thoughts on “The International Space Station Is Always Up There

  1. WTF?


    No, it’s not. The pedestal actually shows the correct position even if the ISS is down there.

    Then again, perhaps the pedestal is just another gadget from this nasty world government which wants us to believe that the Earth is not flat. For pretty good reasons, I guess, even though I cannot imagine any.


    1. For any point on Earth the Station’s lowest visible altitude above the astronomical horizon will always be a bigish number of degrees. If the seeing is perfect then the altitude above the horizon from our viewpoint on Earth will be zero. The plane of the astronomical horizon is one half the Earth’s diameter below the point we are on earth. The angle of intersection of a line from the center of the Earth and a line from us through our horizon to a point 250 miles up will be about 31°
      First time commenter, hope I didn’t mess that up too badly.

  2. A handy python script gets you partway there too:

    import requests

    # Get the current location of the ISS
    response = requests.get(“”)
    data = response.json()
    iss_latitude = float(data[“iss_position”][“latitude”])
    iss_longitude = float(data[“iss_position”][“longitude”])

    # Set the latitude and longitude for your location
    your_latitude = 12.3456
    your_longitude = -123.4567

    # Calculate the distance between the ISS and San Diego
    distance_latitude = abs(iss_latitude – your_latitude)
    distance_longitude = abs(iss_longitude – your_longitude)

    # Print the distance in degrees
    print(“The ISS is currently”, distance_latitude, “degrees of latitude and”, distance_longitude, “degrees of longitude away from your location.”)

  3. Using Sat repeaters, especially the one on ISS (and also trying and failing to call them all the time) got me into ham radio. It would be awesome to mount this thing on the hand held antenna so I don’t have to jockey the iPhone app with my third hand while holding antenna and radio anymore. Also with this device, obviously, you don’t need to be able to see ISS to use it, a huge advantage.

    1. Using some additional hardware and minor modifications to the software, you could even just have this thing point your antenna! Now even your second hand is free!

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