The trajectories of space launches and the deployment of their payload (both scientific and commercial) are certainly carefully monitored by the space agency or company providing the launch capability, probably more than one government or military organization, the owner of the payload, and certainly some amateur satellite observers.

I'm wondering how common it is for these trajectories to be made available to the public afterward. I'd interested in both precise data, and reconstructed trajectories based on the best available information.

Where are likely sources for this kind of information, and which groups or organizations might provide it?

  • $\begingroup$ Well, I am not sure if the Internet would be full with launch trajectory databases, to make this question really "too broad"... I think, if there is a case as such resource recommendations should be accepted, it is one. $\endgroup$ – peterh Feb 27 '18 at 0:40
  • $\begingroup$ @peterh I've rewritten the question a bit. I do not think it is too broad now. $\endgroup$ – uhoh Feb 27 '18 at 6:10

It is going to be difficult to find precise data during the initial launch, however let's see what might be available:

For SpaceX launches, their videos posted in their YouTube channel display altitude and speed, as well as visualizations of their orbits and their projected ground-track across Earth's geography. Their press releases contain additional information, including approximate times and target orbits (shape, inclination, etc). The most notable, prolific, and accurate set of reconstructions posted for public consumption is available at flightclub.io (read more in reddit).

For answers here that have used details from flightclub, see here and here and here.

For the movement of spacecraft around the Earth once in orbit, you can use two line elements available from Celestrak.org or Space-Track.org. See this answer for more about Space-Track, and this site is filled with questions and answers referring to Celestrak and TLEs, and you will find several with Python scripts that allow you to calculate trajectories from the TLEs.

As some launches continue to Earth orbit and especially to deep space, JPL's Horizons will provide calculated past and future trajectories. This site is also filled with questions and answers referring to Horizons, and you will find several with Python scripts that allow you do extract and plot orbits from Horizons data.

There may be reconstructions of historical launches, such as those of the Gemini and Apollo missions, and in fact, some of them can also be found at flightclub.io as well!


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