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I have heard that SpaceX uses some kind of phased array system. I guess, this is reasonable because the speed of the rocket makes usage of any movable parts impossible.

However, I am not an engineer and want to know, how they position the system around the starting and landing pads to allow 3D positioning of the tracked device. I also wonder which frequency and tx power is necessary and what hardware the rocket has to interact with the system?

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  • $\begingroup$ Looks great! fyi I've just asked What were those motorized human-piloted platforms with helical antennas called (tracking launches)? $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 9 '17 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, this might be helpful/interesting: space.stackexchange.com/a/8061/12102 It's an R&D effort, not used in routine launches as you are asking about here. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 9 '17 at 13:28
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    $\begingroup$ I also think it is an interesting question, and I belive the systems works similar to beamforming in the upcoming 5g standard $\endgroup$ – dgrat Nov 9 '17 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ The speed of the rocket is not too high to use a parabolic dish as the antenna. You just have to make the drive motors powerful enough to keep up. Nasa used to use human-aimed cameras for tracking, slow human reflexes would be more of a bottleneck than slewing a dish. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Nov 13 '17 at 9:27
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KSC has a 640 antenna system to track wind shear at the launch site up to about 60000 feet. It is not used for tracking.

The air force at Cape Canaveral air force station houses the 45th space wing, which operates the TEL-4 tracking station. It seems to be vital for launches and there are no launches when it doesn't work. Unfortunately, no more information available on this.

There is a TDRSS tracking and data satellite system, which is a network of satellites to track rockets and satellites and it is the current system for tracking and launch support.

Also, since you wrote you heard this, sometimes many antennas are referred to as an "array of antennas", but this does not mean, they are operating together or are phased.

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  • $\begingroup$ With heard I mean, some info I got from related companies. So it is very likely that they use phased arrays, but I got no details about the system itself. Beside this, I think it is smart to use phased arrays :D $\endgroup$ – dgrat Nov 13 '17 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ Can you add a link or reference that supports "KSC has a 640 antenna system"? I don't doubt it, but in stackexchange facts like that cited in answers need to be supported, and wow I'd love to read about it further (as might future readers). Since it's such a specific number, it must be coming from somewhere. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 15 '17 at 2:25
  • $\begingroup$ It would have been nice to have that wind profiler when I was working shuttle DOLILU! $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Nov 22 '17 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ Who are you again? $\endgroup$ – mike Nov 22 '17 at 1:09
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To the best of my knowledge Spacex does not do their own tracking on launches, that is provided by KSC facilities, to provide input to the range safety officer should the launch vehicle deviate sufficiently from its planned course that a range safety destruct needs to be initiated. Not sure exactly how tracking is done on landings, suspect that drone ship landings are the responsibility of Spacex.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to stackexchange. You can read more about how questions and answers should be written here; space.stackexchange.com/help This answer is not really suitable because there's no references to external, verifiable sources for the information. "To the best of my knowledge..." is generally not enough for an answer here. If you take a look around the stie and view other questions and answers you'll get a better idea how things are done. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Nov 13 '17 at 11:05

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