A group of satellite operators have asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reconsider its proposed five-year window for removing orbital debris, adding language that would allow them to request waivers for exceeding the limit.
Iridium Communications, HughesNet operator EchoStar, Luxembourg-based SES and OneWeb are building a satellite constellation that they say will deliver global broadband the letter [PDF] earlier this week. The group called on the FCC to “adopt explicit language recognizing that operators may, for cause, request and receive exemptions from the five-year post-mission disposal rule,” as well as establish “objective criteria” for evaluating exemption requests.
The FCC proposed its new rule, which would reduce the period in which space operators must remove decommissioned equipment from low Earth orbit (LEO, defined as below 2,000 kilometers) from 25 to five years. earlier this month to clean up the increasingly crowded space around Earth.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the suggestion that there was a need to support the rapidly growing space economy. “Satellites can remain in orbit for decades, circling through our increasingly crowded skies as space junk, increasing the risk of collisions that can ruin satellites we count on,” Rosenworcel said.
As noted in previous reports, the FCC said there were more than 4,800 satellites in Earth orbit at the end of 2021, most of them flying around in LEO. According to the FCC, many of these satellites have been launched in the past two years, “and projections of future growth suggest many more to come.”
In August, the FCC voted to open procedures for servicing, assembling, and manufacturing in space or ISAMwhich would put some industrial processes into Earth orbit, hopefully to protect the environment and mitigate climate change.
rosework said that space debris could be removed by ISAM operations, but FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington raised concerns that space debris could interfere with ISAM operations by damaging equipment. Simon said in a statement that the FCC is considering updating its rules on space debris.
Aside from the threat posed to cities and people by falling space debris, an overabundance of satellites in Earth orbit has also concerned astronomers, who said there is so much orbital hardware out there Starlink satellites appear in about a fifth of the images taken by some telescopes. AI algorithms were designed to combat this, but they did has proven just as effective.
SpaceX’s second-generation Starlink satellites are designed to minimize light pollution on Earth, but until Musk’s own company can lift his spaceship off the groundthe new hardware cannot be started.
The FCC is expected to vote on the five-year proposal on September 29. Whether a waiver option will be added remains to be seen; to date, the FCC has not responded to our questions in this regard. ®
https://www.theregister.com/2022/09/22/satellite_deorbiting_waivers/ Satellite Operators Demand Exceptions to Exceeding Deorbiting Rules • The Register