FCC Reviews Rules on Space Debris

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken action to review its long-standing rules regarding the mitigation of debris from satellite communications systems orbiting in space.

According to the Commission’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the value of the global space economy is now estimated at nearly $400 billion with investment in start-up space ventures estimated at between $2-3 billion in each of the last three years alone. As a result, there has been a significant increase in the number of satellites in orbit and a concurrent increase in the amount of orbital debris that can be generated. Such debris can directly affect the operational reliability of new satellite systems.

The Commission’s NPRM represents an effort to update and revamp Commission rules originally implemented in 2004 so that they more fully reflect both the Commission’s experience in the satellite licensing process as well as improvements in mitigation guidelines and practices.

Notably, the NPRM also denied an 18-year old petition to apply the FCC’s orbital debris mitigation requirements to amateur radio service satellites, noting that “numerous licensees, including amateur satellites operating in LEO (low-earth orbit), have successfully satisfied our orbital debris mitigation requirements.”

Read he text of the Commission’s NPRM on the mitigation of orbital debris.


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