Today, the FCC updated its rules for orbital debris for the first time since 2004. While there aren’t many major changes to the rules, the update was necessary with changes in how many satellites are being launched and the growing amount of resulting debris.
The rules will affect all licensed satellite operators in the US, but the statement made by the FCC today specifically points to low orbit satellites, like those launched by SpaceX.
“As we enter a new era in which tens of thousands of new satellites could be deployed, space debris is becoming a more serious concern, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement. “If you want a graphic illustration of the problem, just re-watch the movie Gravity.”
With the update, companies will be required to disclose debris mitigation plans. Companies will need to consider, and report on, collision risk, post-mission disposal, and casualty risk for when satellites re-enter earth’s atmosphere.
The FCC has adopted a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, opening the conversation up to additional comments and concerns on issues including collision risk and casualty risk, to continue updating the rules and “protect the space environment.”
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