LeoLabs Partners with SpaceX to Track Starlink Satellite Deployments

3 min readOct 27, 2020

LeoLabs is pleased to announce a commercial agreement with SpaceX to support tracking of Starlink satellites during the initial on-orbit phase of missions. 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.

“LeoLabs is excited to work with SpaceX as they launch the world’s largest constellation of satellites to provide global broadband internet access,” said LeoLabs CEO Dan Ceperley. “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.”

LeoLabs visualization of the growing Starlink constellation

Use of LeoLabs’ independent tracking system is a responsible best practice by SpaceX to provide redundancy during the early mission phase and ensure mission success. Our Launch and Early Orbit service complements SpaceX’s own telemetry to ensure smooth location and communications acquisition.

LeoLabs data supports rapid independent confirmation of events so the SpaceX team can focus on satellite operations.

We are also on standby to assist with any anomalies or mission critical scenarios, should they arise.

So how exactly does the Launch and Early Orbit service work for Starlink missions? Let’s take a closer look.

Using the LeoLabs global network of phased-array radar systems, we schedule and actively track every SpaceX mission with Starlink satellites on board, beginning with the first radar pass following satellite deployment from the Falcon 9 upper stage.

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.

LeoLabs visualization of Starlink satellites passing through the Kiwi Space Radar field of view

We also quickly 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 data plot showing three Planet SkySats and 58 Starlinks on a July 2020 SpaceX rideshare mission.

Next, we generate orbital data products for individual Starlink satellites of interest during this early mission phase, if requested by SpaceX. 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.

LeoLabs has supported SpaceX since March 2020 for each Starlink launch, and will continue to do so for future launches under this agreement. These capabilities are part of our Launch and Early Orbit service, available now to satellite operators globally. Contact us today to schedule the service for your mission.




We're propelling the dynamic space era with superior information.