and their tracking data
The purpose of this page is to get
familiar with satellite
Tracking of satellites can be done in
various ways: one can just wait
until a satellites is visible,
or one can listen on frequencies that
the satellite's beacon uses. It
is better to know when a
satellites is visible/audible.
Fortunately there are various ways to be
aware of satellite's positions and
this page gives you
some info on how, why, where.
very many people that find their
hobby with satellites: Weather satellites (providing
Amateur satellites (providing radio
and data communication), and of course the
Station. This can easily (well......)
be viewed from Earth, and in addition
it provides for
(HAM) data communication.
To know the position of satellites,
you need a program that shows you
the satellite's position
relative to the Earth's surface, and
you need acurate kepler data for
Kepler data, named after the German
Astronomer Johannes Kepler who
the tracks of planets, are data that
form the unique information of all
variables of a satellite track.
Feeding these data into a satellite
tracking program, provides you the
location of that satellite
relative to the earth at any given
moment in past, present or future.
Because satellite tracks
vary over time, frequent upgrades are
necessary. I try to stick to
Over the years I ran into a number of
such tracking programs. In 2004 I
found two perfecrt
program with semi-automatic kepler
data updates. You will find
more about such programs
when you scroll down on this page.
Now some practical
you have a tracking program, you need kepler data upgrading. Satellites
show variations of their tracks for
various reasons, so frequent update
is a must!
In the past I used kepler data
from the AMSAT.ORG
organization. Each week I received
two files, the 2-line NASA file and
the (less compact)
amsat.org file. Since it is very easy
to use the 'net' for automatic and
easy kepler file upgrade, I decided
in October 2005 to
stop the provisioning of those kepler
files. Call it 'progressive
websiteit you can see when ISS can be viewed from (roughly) The
for The Beautiful
Village of Vijfhuizen. Check the startpage for that, by clicking on the
ISS symbols. There is one for my
hometown, but also for my 'remote'
address in Toulouse...
Here you find my favourite sat
tracking programs (descriptions
A website that provides you with
actual visibility data is Heavens
Above. Based on your lat/lon,
files needed: WXtrack arranges it's own upgrades in a perfect manner.
same story: no
files needed: See below!
no program, but a website: see explanation here:
detailed info is given on visible satellites, as well as for "Iridium
flares": sunlight reflected by the
solar panels of Iridium satellites gives (very locally!) a sudden
flare, sometimes with a magnitude
of -6 or -7.
To know if ISS (The
International Space Station) is visible to us humble earthlings you
view the following file: ISS
. For you to compare: I have added an output of
that gives a 3-line listing, but with local Dutch time. This file
is self explainatory
To learn about HOW to watch
and HOW to
in this file, I prepared a separate
page to explain about visibility of
ISS, click here
And now: WXtrack and
Two satellite tracking programs with great views
easy controls. It is downloadable freeware. David Taylor and
Sebastian Stoff are
When I was
investigating if and how my own website would
pop-up under Google, I
the site of David and Cecile Taylor,
Whenever you want to understand and
visualise satellite tracks, check
the two FREE programs
WXtrack and WXtrackGL. Kepler file
loading is easy,
because the program takes
care of it's own
upgrade by clicking one button. At
start-up it encourages you to
update the kepler data as well.
see my comments on WXtrack
and WXtrackGL below.
Because the satellite tracking will
always attrack my attention, I
recently bumped into another
well develloped program. Similarity
but with some 'specials' that
make it another
favourite for me: Orbitron of
Two programs that make it very easy
for you to
understand the tracks of
satellites around the Earth.
For learning purposes this
is a great help, if only for
the way it is presented to you. Also for
with low budget (and low
speed internet access) this is a really great way to start with satellite tracking.
The main program WXtrack is only 650
kB and WXtrackGL is just over
you get a good basic 'Earth' projection already, it is
easy to drag in other maps, with greater details.
This requires a faster computer (I
use a Pentium III and
that goes fine), especially
when that UserMap
file is around 3MB.
I noticed that WXtrackGL uses the
same satellite data as WXtrack,
so the programs must be
interlinked in one way or
You can register WXtrack, and that
gives extra possibilities,
mainly for the people that
of antenna rotors (for
receiving the weather satellite signals).
What is really impressive of
WXtrackGL is the presentation of
all satellites in reference to the Earth:
It enables you to zoom in and
out and shows the track of one satellite.
The "Geostationnary Satellites Belt"
is impressive, just like the
GPS (2x per 24hours) satellite skin!
Do yourselves a favour, and check on David and
This is a similar program as WXtrack,
but it has a different features.
It has a very intuitive
It was develloped by the Polish guy
Sebastian Stoff. I
suggest that you take a personal look yourselve:
This program of Sebastian gives a
great output of various files. These
can be screenshots, but also
direct info on satellite visibility. Orbitron can generate these
files with three lines: Start
maximum elevation, end of visibility.
This is an improvement over
In addition Orbitron can generate a
pictorial display of the sky
of the chosen location, sort of 'radar'.
This gives direct clues about
location of the tracked
satellite (azimuth and elevation)
Orbitron is CARDWARE: if you like the
(free) programme, Sebastiaan
likes to receive a card.
I list this as this is the program
that I used in the past. It shows a
clear view of the world, with sats
projected in a
clear track. The program also
incorporates a logging program
for HAM's QSO's.
However......... a problem with the program arose,
when Y2K came along, and a special patch was
needed to repair the
program. So far (I checked in Oct 2005) the makers have not made any visible
attempt to create a direct Y2K
compliant program. Poor show.
And insulting to the buyer,
because this program is not
free- nor shareware. Nor cheap for what you get
Don't bother, see above for the two
DON'T USE IT. WASTE OF TIME AND
page last update September 24, 2006
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