ST. LOUIS – Space launch operations at Cape Canaveral, the country’s busiest spaceport, were recently recreated in a 3D digital “metaverse” that merged virtual and physical worlds.
Funded by the Space Force’s Spaceport Integration Office, the demonstration simulated launches using real-world telemetry data from commercial rockets and Maxar’s high-resolution satellite imagery of Cape Canaveral. The data was merged using Cesium visualization software, Unreal Engine’s computer graphics game engine, and NVIDIA’s Omniverse collaboration platform.
The spaceport simulation is an example of how the military can leverage Metaverse technology, Jennifer Arnold, NVIDIA’s head of federal business, said May 21 at the GEOINT 2023 symposium.
Space Launch Delta 45, the unit that oversees Florida space rocket launch sites, will use the technology to help plan future operations in light of increasing traffic jams and increased launch rates. For example, the Space Force must forecast range resource needs and plan for communications infrastructure and sensor network upgrades.
The Space Force Head Office for Technology and Innovation has advocated the use of Metaverse technologies for education and learning about the space environment.
Cape Canaveral’s digital twin combined Maxar’s enhanced 3D imagery with actual missile telemetry data from SLD 45, Arnold said. “So we launched a rocket and we were able to see geographically what was in that area and in that area using direct sensor data.”
The Space Force established the Spaceport Integration Office in July to improve coordination.
The demonstration, the officials discussed in a webinar in April, was also a test case for merging and exchanging data. Cesium provided a plugin for the Unreal Engine and for Maxar’s geospatial data.
The physical data from SLD 45 was merged with NVIDIA’s visualization engine. The engine uses the standard known as Universal Scene Description, a framework for exchanging 3D computer graphics data originally developed by the Pixar film studio.
The images of the spaceport are from Maxar’s 3D digital twin of the earth It was developed for the US Army for immersive training.
“We need to stop saying metaverse”
The metaverse is primarily associated with entertainment and gaming, though it has real national security uses, said David Sracic, engineering director for the Carderock Division at the US Navy’s Naval Surface Warfare Center.
Sracic oversees the development of decision support software for underwater warfare. This will require advanced map technology, weather models and other data so that sailors can position the ship and sensors to successfully complete the mission, he told GEOINT May 21.
“Underlying all of this is a new technology that I think Metaverse says,” he said.
But trying to get funds for the Metaverse technology in the Pentagon’s budget could be problematic, he said. “Our national defense strategy does not require a metaverse. So how do you advocate for budgets?”
“We need to stop saying metaverse,” Sracic said. “Part of it is a vocabulary challenge… People ask why are you making a video game?”