Obviously, Starlink satellites are equipped with sensors for attitude and location detection (like a star tracker or sun tracker) but I'm wondering if they have with any direct Earth observation equipment, specifically cameras (even with only a low spacial resolution).

  • $\begingroup$ I would have used "Can StarLink satellites see us?" for the title, but then again I would have also used Is the ISS a tennis racket? :-) $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Mar 21, 2020 at 2:47
  • $\begingroup$ that title, how does that make sense when you read it? $\endgroup$
    – Topcode
    Apr 1, 2020 at 20:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Considering atmospheric distortion, and the fact that you can photograph andromeda with a modern smartphone and image stacking, I'm thinking that there could be countless applications for tracking space debris, an monitoring for supernovae... even with nothing but a mobile phone camera... it would, after all, be plugged into a high bandwidth backbone. And considering this possibility, I'm almost sure they do... because why wouldn't they? $\endgroup$
    – Dagelf
    Feb 9 at 19:02

1 Answer 1


Yes, they do. Spaceflight Now reports, via a 2019 May 15 press kit from SpaceX, that

The satellites also host optical trackers to detect space debris, allowing the craft to autonomously avoid collisions with other objects in space.

Such a tracker would see the Earth much of the time, being in such a low orbit.

SpaceX's press release dated "May 2019" says that

each spacecraft is equipped with a Startracker navigation system that allows SpaceX to point the satellites with precision. Importantly, Starlink satellites are capable of tracking on-orbit debris and autonomously avoiding collision.

The cameras might not be part of the "Startracker navigation system" per se. NASA says, without mentioning any onboard sensors, that

The Startracker navigation system is based on the heritage of Dragon. The satellites are designed [to] autonomously avoid collisions based on uplinked tracking data.

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    $\begingroup$ Given this combination of three statements, wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that the satellites do not have any "direct Earth observation equipment"? It seems to me that Spaceflight Now misinterpreted the SpaceX press release: the "autonomous collision avoidance" only relies on uplinked tracking data, and the only optical system is the star tracker, which would (ideally) never see the Earth. $\endgroup$
    – Chris
    Apr 7 at 0:16

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