SpaceX and LeoLabs have announced a partnership to better track Starlink satellites when deployed in low orbit. This collaboration will not only provide technical support to Elon Musk’s company, but will also help fight the scourge of space debris.
Track satellites as they are deployed
LeoLabs is a space company based in Silicon Valley. Using its ground-based radar network, “it generates high-resolution data on objects in low-earth orbit, providing unparalleled support for industries that rely on satellite services.” It also enables space debris to be identified and even avoids a collision in early October 2020. In a blog post published on Medium, the company announced that it has partnered with SpaceX to bring it services to Starlink.
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As a reminder, the constellation of small Starlink satellites aims to bring high-speed internet to the most isolated regions of the world. A version of this network is already available to beta testers in the US and Canada. The aim of this collaboration is “to follow all Starlink satellites as soon as they are deployed, allowing SpaceX to provide rapid orbital location and identification assistance in the first days of new missions.”
Critical information for launching into orbit
LeoLabs will use the Launch and Early Orbit instrument to support SpaceX. The company explains:
“LeoLabs tracks all Starlink satellites (up to 60 per launch) and quickly generates data products in front of and behind the cluster to provide a bounding box for the satellite train. This process begins within the first few hours after launch and deployment. We will continue to monitor the satellites for the hours and days that follow as they disperse and begin their bearing sequences in orbit. “
In addition, upon request from SpaceX, LeoLabs can provide individual data on each satellite and identify objects that are not part of the constellation. This partnership has existed since March, so the technology has already been tested on Starlink and will be used on future launches.
The deployment of 60 Starlink satellites confirmed pic.twitter.com/yJlyu8cLyX
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 24, 2020
Starlink currently has more than 800 satellites, but a few hundred remain to be deployed for the constellation to be fully functional.