SpaceX and orbital object-tracking startup LeoLabs have announced a new commercial partnership that will see LeoLabs track SpaceX’s Starlink satellites during their initial deployment and orbital travel. The arrangement means that LeoLabs will immediately start tracking new Starlink satellites once they’re released in space following a launch, giving SpaceX immediate info in terms of placement and trajectory during the crucial initial few days of any new batch launch.
LeoLabs provides an advantage versus any other options out there in terms of how fast it can acquire signal from a whole batch of newly orbital Starlink satellites, which SpaceX has been sending up in batches of 60.
Here’s a brief synopsis of what exactly LeoLabs is doing for SpaceX through this arrangement, straight from the company itself:
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. 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.
The actual operational partnership has been active since March of this year, which means that LeoLabs has been tracking these deployments for a number of missions thus far. It’s also going to continue to do this for future launches going forward. Through their platform, SpaceX gets timely data on Starlink satellites and their orbits just a few hours post-launch, and the startup says it can typically deliver data within one hour of a Starlink satellite passing over one of its radar stations.
LeoLabs has made headlines recently tracking potential collisions among objects in low Earth orbit, including most recently a near-collision with an 11-meter miss of two objects earlier this month. As low Earth orbit becomes more crowded — in no small part due to SpaceX’s planned massive increase in its Starlink fleet size — the company’s services are likely to only grow in demand in order to help with effective space traffic control.