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Pyorbital is a python package to compute orbital parameters for satellites from TLE files as well as astronomical parameters of interest for satellite remote sensing. Currently pyorbital only supports low earth orbit satellites.


Pyorbital comes with a file platforms.txt that maps satellite name to NORAD identifier. This file needs to be copied to the appropriate satpy etc directory ($PPP_CONFIG_DIR). It is wise to check it contains your satellites of interest. The NORAD identifier can be found as the first number of each line in the Two-Line Elements (eg. from celestrak).

TLE files

Pyorbital has a module for parsing NORAD TLE-files

>>> from pyorbital import tlefile
>>> tle ='noaa 18', '/path/to/my/tle_file.txt')
>>> tle.inclination

If no path is given pyorbital tries to read the earth observation TLE-files from

Computing satellite postion

The orbital module enables computation of satellite position and velocity at a specific time:

>>> from pyorbital.orbital import Orbital
>>> from datetime import datetime
>>> # Use current TLEs from the internet:
>>> orb = Orbital("Suomi NPP")
>>> now = datetime.utcnow()
>>> # Get normalized position and velocity of the satellite:
>>> orb.get_position(now)
(array([-0.20015267,  0.09001458,  1.10686756]),
 array([ 0.06148495,  0.03234914,  0.00846805]))
>>> # Get longitude, latitude and altitude of the satellite:
>>> orb.get_lonlatalt(now)
(40.374855865574951, 78.849923885700363, 839.62504115338368)

Use actual TLEs to increase accuracy

>>> from pyorbital.orbital import Orbital
>>> from datetime import datetime
>>> orb = Orbital("Suomi NPP")
>>> dtobj = datetime(2015,2,7,3,0)
>>> orb.get_lonlatalt(dtobj)
(152.11564698762811, 20.475251739329622, 829.37355785502211)

But since we are interesting knowing the position of the Suomi-NPP more than two and half years from now (September 26, 2017) we can not rely on the current TLEs, but rather need a TLE closer to the time of interest:

>>> snpp = Orbital('Suomi NPP', tle_file='/data/lang/satellit/polar/orbital_elements/TLE/201502/tle-20150207.txt')
>>> snpp.get_lonlatalt(dtobj)
(105.37373804512762, 79.160752404540133, 838.94605490133154)

If we take a TLE from one week earlier we get a slightly different result:

>>> snpp = Orbital('Suomi NPP', tle_file='/data/lang/satellit/polar/orbital_elements/TLE/201501/tle-20150131.txt')
>>> snpp.get_lonlatalt(dtobj)
(104.1539184988462, 79.328272480878141, 838.81555967963391)

Computing astronomical parameters

The astronomy module enables computation of certain parameters of interest for satellite remote sensing for instance the Sun-zenith angle:

>>> from pyorbital import astronomy
>>> from datetime import datetime
>>> utc_time = datetime(2012, 5, 15, 15, 45)
>>> lon, lat = 12, 56
>>> astronomy.sun_zenith_angle(utc_time, lon, lat)


Orbital computations

.. automodule:: pyorbital.orbital

TLE handling

.. automodule:: pyorbital.tlefile

Astronomical computations

.. automodule:: pyorbital.astronomy