An open-source program’s Call for Help: Coordinated team-up observation for StarLink and NOAA satellites in July. Contribute to the satellite observing community 2019-07-19 until 2019-07-21!

Dear SatObs/SeeSat-L community,

We are students, taking part in Google Summer of Code 2019, and we seek your help!

We are working on an open-source project called OrbitDeterminator [w] that aims to determine the orbital parameters of satellites based on your positional data in various formats. Currently, we prepared the software so far and our next step is to test it to see how accurately it can determine satellite orbits So we would like to ask for your help in a few points to test our code under real-life conditions and your use-cases.

Our Aim, tackling StarLink and NOAAs together

We would like to tackle data of special interest for us and you, namely the StarLink satellite train and NOAA satellites. With the much talked-about StarLink observation data we can hopefully help the community to get an additional set of improved TLEs. And NOAAs are interesting for us because the TLEs are already available and we will be able to compare our results with existing TLEs.
So it would be great if you could provide us with observational positional data produced by positional observers on SatObs in IOD, UK and RDE formats. And in case there are none available yet, we would be more than happy to organize a small “global” observation campaign within the next month.

With this call-for-help, we suggest the 19th to 21st of July for us all to hunt the StarLink and NOAA satellites (more info in the information box below)

Overall Aim

With your help, we will provide you with a tool that is freely available, is easy to use and produces accurate results and benefits the satellite observing community. This information and data that you will provide will give more purpose to our code, where as we will try our best to give meaning to your data.

It would be our pleasure to end our Google Summer of Code project with this “field testing”, bringing our OrbitDeterminator package to good use within the SatObs community, and reporting our test speculations as a technical paper for the next International Aeronautical Congress 2019 call for papers in Washington DC.

Below you will find our initial line of thoughts and we are open to all discussions that will promote improvements in the same.

So who would be kind enough to answer our “call for help”? Feel free to answer on the mailing list or contact [m] us directly. We are looking forward to your positive reply!

Best regards,

Krishna, Rakshit & Vidhan (GSoC students)
Nilesh, Arya & Aakash (GSoC mentors)


Here are the areas where we need you and you people can help us:

Coordinating the Field Test:

  • Proposed Time-Span until third week of July 2019
  • Coordinated measurements during 48hours
  • We suggest to team up during 2019-07-19 18:00 UTC until 2019-07-21 18:00 UTC
  • Team-up together or single people. We organize via this SatObs Mailinglist!
  • As many single measurements as possible send via the SatObs mailing list for EVERYONE, not just us.
  • Deliverables by us: new code to OrbitDeterminator and also the results (under public domain licence)


  1. Since a lot of data that is reported in the mailing list does not contain detailed location information about the observer, we would like the location of all observers ordered by site/station number that contains: [site/station number, observer code, observer name, latitude, longitude, elevation, active/inactive, preferred reporting format].
  2. Since all data is reported with an intrinsic measurement uncertainty, there will be some degree of error in the determined orbits as well. Can you please specify the what a typical accepted margin of error is for you?
  3. We currently produce the 7 keplerian elements and 3D orbit plots as output, in a specified format using a command line user interface. Do you people have any other preferences regarding the user interface, input options, file extensions and the output format?
  4. Can you provide the historical data for some satellites in all 3 (UK, IOD, RDE) formats? It will help us test our code and remove possible errors and exceptions.
  5. We are very much interested in the Starlink satellite train. Would you please provide us with current observations for the same?
  6. We would like to compare NOAA satellite orbits as well. But we could not find a lot of reports on the mailing list regarding the same. Could you provide some?
  7. Lastly, can you provide some reports with the results already known? This will help us compare our results with the expected results and improve our algorithms accordingly.

If we will get more questions during our discussion on the mailinglist, we will send it to the ML. And if we need to share some data, we can use this google drive folder.

PS: I am forwarding this email on behalf of the GSOC students. They subsribed a few weeks ago and just received the „Your subscription request has been forwarded to the list administrator at for review.“ notice and no further confirmation. Would you please be so kind and subscribe them to the list? It will make conversion much easier for them.

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