News Release

The Visual Analytics Research & Development Consortium of Canada (VARDEC) announces a Space Situational Awareness (SSA) collaborative research project with new industry member, NorStar Space Data Inc. (NSDI), a Quebec, Canada-based firm and Boeing.

Vancouver, British Columbia, Sept. 29, 2015 – While the existence of UFOs – unidentified flying objects – are the source of heated debate on Earth, they do exist in space – and a new research collaboration will look to use the science of visual analytics to help identify them.   Called “space debris,” unidentified flying objects in space can pose a threat to satellites in low-earth orbit. VARDEC and NorStar Space Data, with financial and technical support from Boeing, have created the Space Situation Awareness project to explore and evaluate the various methods that can be used to create visualizations of space objects using sensor data. The goal is to provide end users with the information they need to monitor their assets; assess potential threats; improve knowledge both of the current situation and the accuracy of longer-term projections; and improve the quality and timeliness of decision-making critical to the success of their missions. “This project is the beginning of a significant collaboration between The Boeing Company, NSDI and Canadian VA researchers to make use of the power of visual analytics for exploring and utilizing the increasingly vast amounts of data that are available for analysis and decision making,” said Ken Goosen, Chair of the VARDEC Steering Committee. "NSDI is extremely pleased to participate in this project. It provides us with the opportunity to develop high fidelity representations of end user displays and interfaces that will clearly convey the power of visualization technology," said Dan O'Connell, Technology Manager, NSDI. "Our goal is to reduce complexity and separate the 'wheat from the chaff' out of the enormous amount of observation data our system will produce and process. The expertise of the VARDEC team and The Boeing Company will be an invaluable resource to us in refining the sophisticated analytics required to present our customers with the knowledge they need quickly and efficiently."

Boeing’s support of VARDEC and the Space Situational Awareness project continues the company’s long-standing relationship with Canada. For more than 90 years, Boeing has been engaged with Canadian industries, universities and other organizations to expand opportunities for the country’s current and future workforce and to add value to the Canadian economy. The project supports Boeing’s commitments under Canada’s Industrial & Technological Benefits policy, which guides defense and security contractors in creating strategic relationships with Canadian organizations to produce long-term benefits throughout the country.

About the Space Situational Awareness project:  The SSA project is pre-competitive research to explore and evaluate various methods that can be used to display real-time or stored simulated sensor data on a 3D representation of spaceborne assets and objects of interest. The simulations will be driven by actual catalogued orbiting objects with accurately modeled observation data and high fidelity orbit propagation techniques, lending realism to the visualizations.  The graphical representations will be tailored towards providing end users with the information they need to monitor their assets, asses potential threats well in advance, improve knowledge both of the current situation and the accuracy of longer term projections, and make the decisions critical to the success of their missions properly and in a timely manner.

About the Visual Analytics Research And Development Consortium (VARDEC): VARDEC is an industry-led research consortium initiated by Boeing to continue its multi-year, active involvement in visual analytics research at Canadian universities and with Canadian industry. It was formed in 2013 as a collaboration with Mitacs Inc., a Canadian non-profit research organization, and the Canadian Network for Visual Analytics researchers (CANVAC). VARDEC industry members work with Canadian researchers to create visual analytics projects that will benefit VARDEC members, and thus accelerate the use of advanced analytics to benefit the Canadian economy. VARDEC is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia. Founding Canadian member companies include NGRAIN and Convergent Manufacturing Technologies. VARDEC is aligned with the Government of Canada’s Industrial & Technological Benefits (ITB) agreements with international partners that help to create key, strategic technology investments in the Canadian economy. Visual analytics (VA) is the science of analytical reasoning facilitated by interactive visual interfaces. VA tools and techniques enable analysts to explore and synthesize information and derive insight from massive, dynamic and possibly conflicting data collections.

About NorStar (NSDI): NorStar Space Data, Inc., is an emerging data-driven enterprise supplying unique and comprehensive information products about the entire Earth and the near-Earth space environment to serve multiple markets.  NSDI is developing its own large scale Low Earth Orbit satellite constellation hosting a variety of sensor packages to provide the primary data resource, augmented by additional terrestrial sources. NorStar will provide Earth Observation information products of unparalleled freshness and richness of content, and critical Space Situational Awareness knowledge products based on measurements never before available.


Contact: Robert D. Grace VARDEC Consortium Director