In Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR), a short pulse of coherent light generated by a laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is transmitted in a narrow beam to illuminate corner cube retroreflectors on the satellite. The return signal, typically a few photons, is collected by a telescope and the time-of-flight is measured. Using information about the satellite's orbit, the time-of-flight, and the speed of light, the location of the ranging station can be determined. Similar data acquired by another station, many kilometers distant from the first, or on a different continent, can be used to determine the distance between stations to precisions of centimeters or better. Repetitive measurements over months and years yield the change in distance, or the motion of the Earth's crust.
Predicted satellite orbits for Satellite Laser Ranging (SLR) tracking of satellites equipped with corner cube retroreflectors. SLR stations download these prediction files and coordinate tracking schedules for satellite acquisition. The predicted orbit files typically contain orbit information for multiple days and are issued on a daily or sub-daily basis.