Featured Image Source: LeoLabs
SpaceX is ready to offer Starlink internet in northern United States and southern Canada. The company currently operates approximately 888 internet-beaming satellites in low Earth orbit. SpaceX plans to deploy thousands of satellites to provide broadband coverage globally by 2021. To track the satellites in orbit SpaceX signed a deal with LeoLabs, the company announced the partnership today October 27. --"LeoLabs is pleased to announce a commercial agreement with SpaceX to support tracking of Starlink satellites during the initial on-orbit phase of missions," LeoLabs representatives wrote in a press release. "Under this partnership, SpaceX utilizes LeoLabs Launch and Early Orbit service to track all Starlink satellites beginning immediately after deployment, providing SpaceX with rapid orbital location and identification support during the first few days of new missions."
SpaceX and LeoLabs have been working together since March this year. Through LeoLabs' advanced tracking system, SpaceX obtains detailed data rapidly about where each Starlink satellite is located in space. LeoLabs states it delivers data within 1-hour after a Starlink satellite passes over one of its radar stations on Earth.
"LeoLabs is excited to work with SpaceX as they launch the world’s largest constellation of satellites to provide global broadband internet access,” the Chief Executive Officer at LeoLabs Dan Ceperley wrote in a statement released by the company. "Our global radar network and software platform allow LeoLabs to acquire an entire batch of Starlink satellites faster than any other organization in the world and provides SpaceX with a level of certainty that was previously not available," he added.
SpaceX has been launching Starlink satellites atop Falcon 9 rockets in clusters of 60. Every month the company deploys around 120 satellites to space on two seperate missions. The satellites that have been deployed already operate at altitudes of approximately 550-kilometers. "LeoLabs tracks all Starlink satellites (up to 60 per launch) and rapidly generates data products on the front and back of the cluster to provide a bounding box on the train of satellites," the company explains, "This begins within the first few hours following launch and deployment. We continue to monitor the satellites in the following hours and days as they disperse and begin their orbit raising sequences." Each Starlink satellite features Krypton-powered ion thrusters to raise to higher-altitudes in orbit. LeoLabs says their tracking system is capable of quickly differentiating "non-Starlink objects if those are on board (e.g. third-party satellites for rideshare missions) and provide location and separation information to SpaceX."
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.