Using Google Earth to track Space Shuttle Atlantis

Space Shuttle Atlantis is on the final mission of space shuttle era after launching a few days ago from Cape Canaveral and president Obama just called the astronauts.

Unlike previous flights, there is something special this time. Remember in another post I introduced how to track satellites movement using Google Earth in real-time. Well this time NASA created two .KML files to let people to track Atlantis during launch and landing using Google Earth in real-time. The file, called live groundtrack file and replay of the STS-135 ascent are both available for download from NASA official website.

After downloading the files to your local PC, you can use Google Earth to open it. Or run Google Earth first and drag and drop the .KML file to it. Then you will see the shuttle and its current mission events like Solid Rocket Booster Separation and Main Engine Cut-Off (MECO) etc. The  file updates every few seconds so it’s real-time location tracing.

You can either choose Auto-Follow (default) or Manual Control to view the shuttle. Auto-Follow mode will navigate you when the space shuttle moves. While with manual control, you can have full control over zoom in and what view you want.

The space shuttle path is a yellow line, while the mission events are shown as colored dots. If you click on the dots, a balloon pops up with information at that point like time, speed, altitude, latitude, longitude, and Mach number etc.

2011-Jul-Sun | Category: Google Earth | Tags: ,

Google Maps offline navigation goes live

Finally, Google adds offline navigation to Google Maps – a long-waited feature, yet a nightmare to navigation companies becomes reality.

The newly released Google Maps 5.7 for Android now allows users to download maps to local storage for offline navigation. Although this version only let people download maps about an area of 10 miles around specific location, but it’s an important step forward toward full map download.

Once you install Google Maps 5.7 in your Android Smartphone, tap more options on the menu bar, and download map area is there under labs page, just enable it. Then you only have to tap download map data for this location to store it to your cell phone for offline use after highlighting the name of the location you want. You can also choose to rename or delete the maps downloaded by entering cache settings.

At the moment there are more than a few navigation companies out there providing various offline maps for convenient uses. You can download their maps to your cell phone storage and install their navigation app, now you are ready to navigate around. But Google Maps in the past won’t let you store the map data, every time you run Google Maps, it connects to Google server to download and cache the map data. If you are in an area with no internet access, you won’t be able to use Google Maps. Moreover, internet access could drain your battery quickly. If you are on a long trip, you need to take extra cell phone batteries with you to avoid getting lost.

This February we drove from city A to B with a distance of 157km using my cell phone as navigator. It actually took us 15 hours to get to city B at midnight and four batteries (1500mhA) went dead. I then was using Garmin and downloaded all the maps to my handset; we may never make it to our destination if we used Google Maps as we have never have been there before.

Google has already collected a huge load of map data for its mapping service. It also has a huge database of Geo data for its location based service like Google Latitude. These make Google’s mapping service the best option for navigation. So it’s absolutely necessary for Google to include offline map in Google Maps.

At the beginning of June, a Germany telecom insider was cited as saying Google Maps will soon add full maps offline navigation capability. Although Google only adds limited area maps download in this update, it’s an increasing threat to traditional navigation companies.

2011-Jul-Fri | Category: Google Earth | Tags: ,

Google launches Google Maps 5.3 for Android

A short while after Google Maps 5.2 hit the Android market last month, Google Maps 5.3 for Android was lunched yesterday, featuring location history dashboard, check-in at home and add your opinion when review a place.

Location history dashboard

If you enabled location history, you will be able to see your past route, the most frequently visited place, and the time spent at home, at work or hang out. Now you can plan your route and trip carefully to save time.

If you have not enabled location history, it’s easy. Simply enable it from your computer or mobile device under settings in Google Latitude, and it’s private. You can remove any location history anytime, or correct the estimated location of your home or company.

Location history dashboard facilities the work or managing your past locations, you can even see an interesting trend of your location and time.

Google Maps 5.3 for Android

Check in at home

Since you can see how much time you spend at home, you may want your friends to know that you are home. Google Latitude enables you check in and share with friends when you arrive at a place like a park, or Starbucks; you may wish them to know that you get home safely. Now you can check in at home with Google Latitude.

If you do not see the place of your home, you can tap Home to guess your home address or enter it manually. Once you set it, you can enable automatic check-in at home.

Your privacy is respected. No one can search and find the address of your home, and only you can check-in at your home. You can also choose who to share your home check in include your name and home address.

Adding reviews on a place

If you review a place on Google Maps using Google Places with Hotpot, you can leave your opinion or comment in it quickly, for example, music, or food etc. In the past, you can see reviews on places on Google Maps, now you can add yours.

If you find some places interesting, you can leave a comment and share with others.

If you are running Android 1.6 or later, you can download the latest version of Google Maps and Google Latitude from the Android Market.

Google is adding more features to its maps service for Android Smartphone for better user experiences. Last December Google enabled offline maps for Android, which allows uses to store the maps of their most viewed places in cache, so users can see them even without mobile internet. This will certainly boost up the battery life if users use Google Maps frequently. But if you go to a new city for the first time, you need internet connection to run Google Maps.

However it’s unknown if these features will come to iPhone/iPad, news said Apple was hiring maps engineers, insiders say Apple will develop its own map service and may ditch Google Maps for iOS. Still it’s uncertain if these features will appear on other platforms like Windows Phone 7 and Symbian.

2011-Apr-Fri | Category: Google Earth | Tags: ,

Google Maps may be closed in China

Since Google withdrew its search business from China mainland, it’s facing another setback. This time it’s online mapping service Google Maps. According to China State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM), they had not received any application from Google for its online mapping service up till yesterday. Google China said last night that they are communicating with the relevant department. But according to the present regulations, any mapping service in China failed to meet the deadline will be closed after July 1st, this year.

Since 2010, online mapping service providers are required to obtain relevant license and submit their application by March 31, extended from December 20, 2010. And any operator failed to meet the two requirements will face investigations and administrative penalties from SBSM. According to the insiders, the penalty could be cancellation of qualification and termination of online mapping service.

According to report, about 105 websites got the licenses by the end of February include Nokia, Baidu, China mobile etc. But Google did not obtain the license although it said it had sent staff to the second-round training about online mapping standards operated by SBSM. This once was interpreted as a positive signal that Google was trying to get the license.

According to SMSB, foreign companies operating online mapping services must place their servers in China and set up a joint venture with Chinese companies. Considering it moved its search server out of China mainland to Hong Kong last year, it’s unlikely that Google will move its mapping server to China.

Google accused the Chinese government of attacking their mail service Gmail last month and interfered in the Gmail users in China and Asia. Last year, Google said IP address from China hacked into Gmail accounts, later it exited from China and transferred its search server to Hong Kong last march, but its music business, translation and mapping service remained in China.

If Google Maps is to be forced to shutdown, it could have a huge impact on Chinese commerce websites which use Google Maps API to provide mapping services. iPhone and Android Smartphone users will be affected too, as the phones all come with built-in Google Maps and they may not be able to use Google Maps in the future.

Many people are concerned about the current situation, and we will continue to update you on future news.

2011-Apr-Sat | Category: Google Earth | Tags:

Real-time flight tracking in Google Earth or Maps

To be honest, although once I mentioned that you can track cell phones, vehicles or satellites in real-time in Google earth, but I did not think of that using Google Earth to track flights.

About one week ago, when I looked for some information about a particular flight, I found that Google pointed out in Google Earth help website that there is a flight tracking service provided by is a aviation solutions website, they allow you to track flights for some major airports in real-time in Google Earth. In order to track a specific flight, you need to select the airline and enter the flight number. If you do not have any particular flight in mind, just scroll down and select and click one listed in their website.

Usually, you can view the departure information (departure time and airport), destination information (time and air port), and flight details (aircraft, altitude and speed). What’s more important, you can see a button saying Google earth. If you have installed Google Earth in your computer, clicking on it will lead to the load of Google Earth and you can view the flight in real-time. has more advanced features to offer. You need first to sign up with them, then purchase a subscription of $9.95 per month.

However if you are in EU countries or do not have Google Earth installed in your PC, there are some substitute flight tracking services using Google Maps for you. Casper, Zurich Airport and RadarVirtuel allow you to track almost all flights in EU countries in almost real-time in Google Maps, just select an airport and you can view the aircraft, altitude and speed in change of each flight, it’s really awesome. For US citizens, GmapTracker let you tracks incoming flights for airports of New York, San Francisco, LA, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago in Google Maps.

If you have an Android mobile device or iPhone, there is an app lets you find the relevant information when a flight is in the sky. All you need to do is point your handset up at the sky, you will be able to see its flight number, altitude, speed etc. However it can not be used to track any flight, just for fun. If you are interested in it, it might be worthwhile to check it out.

Free real-time GPS tracking in Google Earth

Since the release of Google Earth 4 Beta, GE included a special feature for GE Plus/Pro/EC users which allows you to plug in a compatible GPS to your laptop and show your position and path in Google Earth in real-time, and you can import the tracks of your trips from your GPS device into GE as well.

However, if you are using the free version Google Earth, there is still a free app called Goops lets you do real-time GPS tracking in 3D in Google earth.

According to their website, GooPs is a compact plug-in that enables real-time tracking and navigation in Google Earth. GooPs allows you to view your current location in Google Earth in real-time and keeps a track history of where you have been, including timestamps and speed.

In addition, you can use GooPs to locate other GooPs users if you have peer-to-peer network visibility (mobile VPN or static IP) – no servers or monthly subscriptions required. GooPs is also available GpsGate users, which means it can be used to pinpoint a cell phone as well.

While many other mobile locating apps allow you to view the location of the mobile phone being tracked on a interactive map like Google Maps, GooPs is one of the first which lets you pinpoint a handset or vehicle location in Google Earth in real-time. Google Earth gives us a better view of the world than Google Maps.

I did not try their service, so I am not sure if it works on Google Earth for mobile. It’s good news if it does work with the mobile version, so you can track down a car or mobile phone everywhere anytime. Nowadays, people do not stay home sitting in front of a PC all day, but we do take mobile device with us wherever we go. So support for mobile devices will become more and more important.

GooPs comes in three versions, Free, Plus, and Pro, the latest version is GooPs 2.5. GooPs works on Windows series include Windows 7, and it works with RS232, USB, and Bluetooth ports. Even if you are in a plane; you can use it to track your trip as well, which is really awesome! If you have a GPS and Google Earth installed on your laptop, you may want to try the real-time GPS tracking in GE now. For more details, just visit their website.

2010-Jul-Fri | Category: Google Earth | Tags: , ,

Using Google earth to track real-time satellites movements

Since Google earth’s release, you probably have found a lot of interesting things about it and share with other Google earth fans, one of which is make your own place marks and upload it to Google earth community.

This time we bring to you a place mark which allows you to track the satellites locations in real time in Google earth. It would be really interesting to see how the satellites move above us in the sky, it’s really spectacular (click here for a large picture)!

You have to download this little .KMZ file called satellite tracking and unzip it first (now you do not have too). Then run Google earth on your computer, and double click the .KML file and you can see satellite database under place tab on the left, click to tick it. Now you should be able to view the satellites and signal receivers on Google earth. You can see there are many categories including over 12,000 hundred satellites, and you can view their place on the surface of our Earth on Google Earth. Plus, you can rotate the Earth to see more satellites. This huge satellite database is owned by USSC (United States Strategic Command).

Satellite tracking use the internet to update the tracks of the satellites and normally, generally the status are updated every 30 seconds. If you click on any of the satellite, more information will appear, such as its number, owner, launch date and site etc.

I imported the file to Google Earth on my laptop, shortly the positions of the satellites appear, and their positions change from secondes to seconds. It’s really amazing.

By the way, you can also see the locations of the GPS satellites.

If you have any questions or feedback about it, you can shot me a n Email at info at or follow us on Twitter. I will be happy to hear from you.

Update, the .KML file stopped working, I will look for new alternatives. Thanks to Vikas.

Update, I have found an alternative, which is now available for download and sharing.

Copyright © 2009 Profone Tracking by Alex Zaah. All Rights Reserved.