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This is a long-shot question:

I wonder if Space Exploration SE could provide its users with the ability to edit/draw orbits within posts.


Note: Cesium works:

Cesium with Natural Earth underneath

There is an implementation of SGP4 algorithm to be used with Cesium: https://github.com/koansys/isat


Old ideas transferred from a comment:

Something with 3D was definitely on my mind. D3 is a great example of rich 2D and 3D pure-JavaScript visualizations.

A sample 3D image produced by D3

The first implementation idea that I have right now revolves around letting the user experiment with setting parameters for a simple (cough) D3 graph of the Earth and a single sat around it.

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  • $\begingroup$ To prove that this is something that our community needs, you should establish a list of questions that would benefit from it. Posting it as community wiki answer to this question would do the trick $\endgroup$ – JohnB Jul 23 '13 at 20:14
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnB - agreed, I'll scour the site then. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Jul 23 '13 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ I'll point you to Cesium, a new product from AGI. It might be too feature-rich for our purposes, but maybe it's possible to pare it down, I don't know. $\endgroup$ – user29 Jul 23 '13 at 22:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Chris - looks nice, anything from AGI would be great, although Cesium doesn't work for all browsers/cards, also unsure about the mobile version. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Jul 23 '13 at 23:24
  • $\begingroup$ Alas, Cesium isn't working, probably requiring a much newer browser. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Jul 24 '13 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ Correction: in Firefox's about:config set webgl.force-enabled to true. Awesome. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Jul 24 '13 at 12:10
  • $\begingroup$ Although WebGL solutions are quite cool what about those poor souls that use IE? $\endgroup$ – Tomislav Muic Jul 24 '13 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ @TomislavMuic - I feel your pain. At the very least, there could be a static picture as fallback. Another solution could be producing a presentation from text input (orbital params) without relying on interactive editing. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Jul 24 '13 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, and it would be nice to accept TLEs as input as well. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Jul 24 '13 at 13:29
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SE does do these for beta sites, but they may not have enough dev time to spare.

If you can do most of the plugin writing, they probably will help integrate it.

What you need is (I'm assuming you're looking for a static plugin that launches an editor to create images like the CrcuitLab or Balsamiq ones, not an interactive plugin like the one on Chess):

  • Something that opens Cesium from the markdown editor. SE can integrate this more easily than we can, but for testing you'll need this
  • When the user exits the plugin (hitting "save"), an image should be created and uploaded to imgur.
  • There should be a backend that keeps track of which image is attached to what content. For example, the Balsamiq editor only inserts an image and some HTML wrapper comments, but you can still re-launch the editor to edit the mockup.

Basically, make it as easy as possible for SE to integrate this.

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Two possible issues I see with this:

  1. A 2d projection of an orbit can be difficult to understand. Drawing a quick sketch of how a Hohmann transfer works is one thing, getting a clear view of how inclination is taken out of a GTO is quite another.

  2. This might become more of a distraction than a help. Thanks to Kerbal Space Program, lots of people understand the basics of orbits (apogee/perigee, inclination), but far fewer understand where other parameters come into play (node, argument of perigee). I think we'd run into the situation in which a user can describe (in English) the orbit he's thinking of, but will not be able to correctly describe it in Keplerian elements, and it just confuses the issue.

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    $\begingroup$ So far I've seen very few questions on ballistics; and yes, something with 3D was definitely on my mind. D3 is a great example of rich 2D and 3D pure-JavaScript visualizations. The first implementation idea that I have right now revolves around letting the user experiment with setting parameters for a simple (cough) D3 graph of the Earth and a single sat around it. $\endgroup$ – Deer Hunter Jul 23 '13 at 21:27

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