Generate time series data from the command line

This tutorial will show you how to generate some experimental time series data from information about the International Space Station using the CrateDB Shell (aka Crash) and a little bit of shell scripting.

Table of contents


CrateDB must be installed and running.

Crash is available as Pip package. Install it like this:

$ pip install crash

We have designed the commands in this tutorial to be run directly from the command line so that you can experiment with them as you see fit.

You will need the curl and jq tools installed.


This tutorial should work in most POSIX-compatible environments (e.g., Linux, macOS, and Windows Cygwin). Please let us know if you run into issues.

Using curl to get the current position of the ISS

You can get telemetry data from Open Notify, a third-party service that provides a simple API to consume data from NASA (specifically, the current location of the International Space Station). The endpoint for this data is

You can query this endpoint using curl, using the -s flag to keep the output to a minimum:

$ curl -s
{"iss_position": {"latitude": "-51.6051", "longitude": "86.6932"}, "message": "success", "timestamp": 1583490580}

The endpoint returns a JSON payload, which contains an iss_position object with latitude and longitude data.

Processing the ISS position with jq

The jq command is a convient tool to process JSON payloads on the command line. You can use the | character to pipe the output from curl into jq for processing.

For example, to return the whole payload, you can do this:

$ curl -s | jq '.'
  "iss_position": {
    "latitude": "-50.8213",
    "longitude": "97.9703"
  "message": "success",
  "timestamp": 1583490695

However, the most useful information is the latitude and longitude coordinates. You can use jq with a filter to isolate those results:

$ curl -s | jq -r '[.iss_position.longitude, .iss_position.latitude] | @tsv'
111.8643    -48.0634

You’re going to want to get the position like this multiple times. You can make that easier for yourself by defining a shell function to do it, like so:

$ position() {curl -s | jq -r '[.iss_position.longitude, .iss_position.latitude] | @tsv'; }

Now, when you want the position, you can run position:

$ position
126.5203    -42.4264

To insert these values into an SQL query, you need to format them into a WKT string, which you can do by using the echo command:

$ echo "'POINT ($(position))'"
POINT ( 140.1034 -33.6746 )

Here’s a function to do that for you:

$ wkt_position () { echo "'POINT ($(position))'"; }

Which you can now call using wkt_position:

$ wkt_position
POINT ( 143.4071 -30.8853 )

Set up CrateDB

Start an interactive Crash session:

sh$ crash --hosts localhost:4200


You can omit the --hosts argument if CrateDB is running on localhost:4200. We have included it here for the sake of clarity. Modify the argument if you wish to connect to a CrateDB node on a different host or port number.

Then, create a table suitable for writing load averages:

cr> CREATE TABLE iss (
        position GEO_POINT

CREATE OK, 1 row affected  (0.726 sec)

In the CrateDB Admin UI, you should see the new table when you navigate to the Tables screen using the left-hand navigation menu:


Record the ISS position

With the table in place, you can start recording the position of the ISS.

Crash provides a non-interactive mode that you can use to execute SQL statements directly from the command line.

First, exit from the interactive Crash session (or open a new terminal). Then, use crash with the --command argument execute an INSERT query, like this:

$ crash --hosts localhost:4200 \
      --command "INSERT INTO iss (position) VALUES (`wkt_position`)"

INSERT OK, 1 row affected  (0.142 sec)


For any real-world application, you must always sanitize your data before interpolating it into an SQL query.

Press the up arrow on your keyboard and hit Enter to run the same command a few more times.

When you’re done, you can SELECT that data back out of CrateDB, like so:

$ crash --hosts localhost:4200 \
      --command 'SELECT * FROM iss ORDER BY timestamp DESC'
|     timestamp | position             |
| 1583491623255 | [156.4084, -17.0207] |
| 1583491532834 | [152.7272, -21.4128] |
| 1583491531301 | [152.6639, -21.4852] |
SELECT 3 rows in set (0.008 sec)

Here you have recorded three sets of ISS position coordinates.

Automate it

Now you have the basics figured out, you can automate the data collection.

Copy the commands you used into a file named, like this:

position() {curl -s | jq -r '[.iss_position.longitude, .iss_position.latitude] | @tsv'; }

wkt_position () { echo "'POINT ($(position))'"; }

while true; do
    crash --hosts localhost:4200 \
        --command "INSERT INTO iss (position) VALUES (`wkt_position`)"
    echo 'Sleeping for 10 seconds...'
    sleep 10

Here, the script sleeps for 10 seconds after each sample. Accordingly, the time series data will have a resolution of 10 seconds. You may want to configure your script differently.

Run it from the command line, like so:

$ sh

INSERT OK, 1 row affected  (0.029 sec)
Sleeping for 10 seconds...
INSERT OK, 1 row affected  (0.033 sec)
Sleeping for 10 seconds...
INSERT OK, 1 row affected  (0.038 sec)
Sleeping for 10 seconds...

As this runs, you should see the table filling up in the CrateDB Admin UI:


Lots of freshly generated time series data, ready for use.