Sunday, April 26, 2020

FCC updates satellite orbital debris rules

The FCC updated its satellite rules on orbital debris mitigation for the first time since 2004.

Specifically, the new rules improve the specificity and clarity of rules that require disclosure of debris mitigation plans by satellite companies.  The changes include requiring that satellite applicants assign numerical values to collision risk, probability of successful post-mission disposal, and casualty risk associated with those satellites that will re-enter earth’s atmosphere.  Satellite applicants will also have new disclosure requirements related to protecting inhabitable spacecraft, maneuverability, use of deployment devices, release of persistent liquids, proximity operations, trackability and identification, and information sharing for situational awareness.  The new rules also update the process for geostationary orbit satellite license term extension requests.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai stated "Today, for the first time in 15 years, we are adopting new rules to mitigate the threat posed by orbital debris, including regulations involving satellite design, better disposal procedures, and active collision avoidance.  15 years is an eternity in this fast-moving sector, and the time has come to address this critical issue.  The rules that we adopt today take a balanced approach: mitigating the risk posed by orbital debris, while at the same time continuing to light a regulatory path for space-based innovation."