SpaceX and LeoLabs have entered into a partnership, to help track Starlink satellites immediately after deployment, using the LeoLabs Launch and Early Orbit service.
LeoLabs has been working with SpaceX since March this year, but today, the companies have announced a commercial agreement.
SpaceX has been placing some heavy bets on its globe spanning internet service Starlink, putting Starlink satellites in Earth’s orbit for the same. LeoLabs has been helping this mission, allowing the Elon Musk led space company to get immediate info in terms of placement and trajectory during the crucial initial few days of any new batch launch.
The way this happens is LeoLabs uses its global network of phased-array radar systems to schedule and track every SpaceX mission with Starlink satellites on board. The company tracks every Starlink satellite that has been sent into orbit, and rapidly generates data products on the front and back of the cluster to provide a bounding box on the train of satellites. In fact, one of the reasons that SpaceX chose LeoLabs is due to its speed, as it can provide data much faster than any of its competitors, even when it comes to a bulk of launches. This is absolutely crucial for a Starlink launch, since the company usually sends out satellites in batches of 60.
After the satellites have been deployed into orbit, the company tracks them over the days as they disperse and begin their orbit raising sequences.
Moreover, the company can also differentiate non-Starlink objects if those are on board (e.g. third-party satellites for rideshare missions) and provide location and separation information to SpaceX.
LeoLabs can also provide orbital data products for individual Starlink satellites, if SpaceX demands it. “LeoLabs delivers accurate orbital data on Starlink satellites typically starting just a few hours after launch, depending on orbit geometries. From the time the satellites pass over one of our radars to the time we deliver data to SpaceX is commonly less than one hour,” the company said.
The Starlink service will provide high speed low latency internet service to the entire globe. The company has launched more than 800 satellites into orbit till date, and is planning to launch a public beta of the service very soon.