Created during September 2020

Space Wars

I created a visualization of all the satellites that are still active in space for the “Space Wars” article that was published in the November 2020 edition of Scientific American. By keeping each satellite as a separate circle, but grouping them by the two most important variables, country and orbit, the visualization reveals a very detailed look into the satellites, while not becoming overwhelming to the viewer.

The visualization of 'Space Wars' showing the overview of all active satellites in space
A close-up of the left page of the Space Wars visual
A close-up of the satellite circles

The art director specifically asked to not create a visual with circles around the Earth, but to convey “the state of things”, with a specific focus on the country that owned each satellite, what orbit they occupied, and its class (business, defense, etc). The dataset contained many more interesting variables however, such as launch date, usage category, mass, which I also wanted to convey. I therefore kept each satellite represented as a circle, giving me the opportunity to style each satellite very specifically, such as making it more transparent if it was older and sizing it by its mass. I then created a treemap like clustering of these satellites into a “grid” showing country versus orbit, to highlight those two variables most clearly.

The image below shows the version of the final visualization that I sent to Scientific American. This to give an idea how how the art director and editors at Scientific American take my visual and add in the textual elements, annotations, and legends.

The version of the Space Wars visualization that I sent Scientific American
A close-up of the satellites and many different ways each can be marked