Macintosh Software For Satellite Tracking Applications

As a dedicated Macintosh user, I wanted to run software to help me illustrate what satellites were doing. But finding software for the Mac was extremely difficult. After many hours of effort, and sadly getting very little help from other Mac users, I have compiled these pages to help. I have not done web pages in a long time (as you can tell) so forgive me for the look of these pages. As of 5 Sep 2017 these are still being updated daily as mistakes are found!

After hacking around for months, it turns out that there is a lot that we can do on the Mac.  

One big need I have is to visualize where satellites are in relation to each other and the ground below them, to generate “ground traces” on a map. This also helps me illustrate the relationship between satellites in space, more about that later. There are two programs that I have found that do this - Gpredict and JSatTrak. Another need I have is to help others track some satellites, and Gpredict and JSatTrak help me predict acquisition times and angles. Then I can suggest to others where and when to look - more about this in later pages on this site. 

This is an example of what we can do, display ground traces of satellites. 

Gpredict is a ported Unix application, and you have to use a site and command to install it on your Mac. The site is MacPorts, and it works with a software repository of “ported” Unix applications that have been written to run on Macintosh. They retain that blocky Unix look and feel, but they run well. I only use a little of what Gpredict does. 

JSatTrak is a Java application that you can just install as if it was a native Mac application. It also does not have that polished Macintosh look, it is very clunky, but it does run. JSatTrak also generates ground traces and also does a lot more. I have not yet learned how to do many of the things that JSatTrak promises but I hope to get around to learning more about it. 

For those out there that speak French, there is a promising application written by Micael Germann of Lausanne, Switzerland called SatObserver. It is also in English. I am working through that as well and will add it as it matures. At this writing it is at Version 0.6.2 - it is linked from other sites (see later pages). If you don't mind a lot of trial and error, and know how some of the other programs work, you could get it and peck at it for a while, it has some good features.

There is another big application, the General Mission Analysis Tool (GMAT) that has been written by people at the Goddard Space Flight Center, and I have seen it running on Macintosh. They had instructions for installation but they were flawed, I spent many hours trying to install GMAT and just did not have the right information. I hope to get back to it sometime. 

At least Gpredict still runs on my beloved iBook G4. A caveat about my assumptions about the reader. I am going through these pages as if the reader has a fairly current computer, and will hope to add more detail later for those with older systems. But I first installed and ran Gpredict acceptably on a Powerbook with a G3 chip. 

And I run some C++ code as well - one application was written by Tim DeBenedictis of Southern Stars - hopefully with time and permission I may make it available?? I also run some C code that David Vallado has made available - though I have updated it and had two other (far more talented) programmers help me with it. David has a lot of C code available (and Pascal, etc) but it is NOT trivial to try to get it to run. 

I have certain things that I need and the applications do a lot of that for me - there is certainly a LOT that they do that I have not ever explored. If they do something neat and you tell me about it, I will add it here so others can see. 

What Do You Want To Do With Software Like This?