Live Orbit Tracker in Google Earth

Orbit tracker in Google EarthRobert Simpson is studying for his doctorate in Astronomy at Cardiff University in the UK. He has a blog called Orbiting Frog, and recently posted a tool that lets you view current positions of objects in orbit including the International Space Station, GPS satellites, Iridium satellites, and much more. He is using the NORAD two-line element (TLE) datasets that are published via the Celestrak website and are used by satellite enthusiasts for all kinds of software visualizations. He uses a Google Earth network link to automatically update the orbital positions every 30 seconds. He offers three different links for viewing in Google Earth:

  • ISS Locator – This file shows the position of International Space Station, it’s horizon, and a two hour orbital track so you can see what it’s passing over.

  • 100+ Brightest Satellites – This network link shows the positions of the 100 brightest satellites. Notice how the heights of the orbits are shown as well as position.

  • Advanced Tracker – This network link by default shows the Hubble Space Telescope like the ISS one above. But, it lets you change the satellite ID to any other satellite (search the Celestrak database).

The last really good orbit tracking visualization for Google Earth was done by Paul Seabury – but, he took it down after he got a contract to do something similar for someone. Hopefully Robert will keep this one running for a while. Robert also recently posted a cool astronomy layer for Google Earth – which I plan to write about later.
If you like live tracking applications, check out this really cool live airline flight tracking tool from FBOWeb.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Hi, how can I find out when Google Satelite passes over S-Peru, the coastal border area with Chile. More precisely the city of Tacna?
    I saw somerhing recently about making a statement which can be seen from space and think it would be a nice thing to do.
    Also how long does it take before satelite pictures are posted? Any information related to my question will be well received
    Thak you
    Serge N. Volders

    • Voythez says:

      There is no such thing like “google satelite”. The pictures hosted by google (maps and Earth) were bought by Google from other companies. The name of the company which made the photo from their satellite is always shown on the bottom of the screen with the year when the photo was taken. It takes about one year for google to host a picture.

  2. Try the NASA website for REALTIME opportunities –
    Follow the drop-downs to locate where you are and read the JAVA table. Save that as a bookmark and you’ll always know when the ISS will pass within a visible period.

  3. I started an open source python project recently that provides code to do this in a simple and configurable way. See the project here:

  4. Windows can’t open the file

    File: ISSlocator.kmz

    To open this file Windows needs to know what programme you want to use blah, blah,blah.

    How frustratingly annoying!!!

  5. If you only have an iPHone or iPad in your pocket, install Spacetracker and be prepared to know when ISS will be visible from your location

  6. DanielMM says:

    Hi filks, the ISS tracker is not working on GE.

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