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TS Kelso – What Are the Challenges of Satellite Tracking With TLEs

Dr. TS Kelso is a principle scientist behind understanding and using TLE data for identifying, tracking and predicting the orbital paths of satellites. For decades he has promoted the development of programs with increasing ability to work with TLEs. Most recently he has led the creation of CelesTrak, a data visualization tool allowing anyone online to see what satellite orbits look like. But how did this come about? And what are the challenges of using TLEs, a format based on the limitations and needs of old technologies, to track satellites?

TS Keslo Interview on Satellite Tracking with TLEs

Host Jason Kanigan asks Dr. Kelso:

  • What’s the truth about the state of US technology for satellite identification and tracking?
  • Are TLEs good enough anymore?
  • What are we missing out on knowing because of data truncation?
  • Other than the sheer bulk of increased satellites and therefore data, what concerns do you have about the future of satellite trajectory ID, tracking, and prediction?
  • Regarding tracking, what should we update first: technology or standards?
  • How can we overcome the problem of user adoption in standards?
  • What are the main issues you see in getting agreement?
  • Are they mostly nationality-based eg. Russia vs America vs China, or government bodies conflicting, or “Not Invented Here” Syndrome?
  • At what point did you realize it was possible to build CelesTrak?
  • What was the biggest hurdle in getting the application up and running?
  • What capabilities do you envision it having eventually?


CelesTrak website:

Click “Launch Orbit Visualization”  

Dr. Kelso’s biography including a considerable USAF career completed as a Colonel:  

Cold Star Project Space Situational Awareness playlist: 

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Published inInterview
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