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House Science Committee Leaders Ask FCC to Postpone Orbital Debris Order

By Rachel Jewett | September 28, 2022
Representation of space debris.

ESA space debris image

Leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Science, Space, and Technology Committee have asked the FCC to postpone making a decision on an order concerning orbital debris in Thursday’s meeting.

The FCC is considering adopting an order to require Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite operators to dispose of satellites no more than five years after the end of their mission. The FCC says this will minimize the risk of collisions that would create debris. It would shorten the time frame from the current 25-year rule, which many agree is no longer relevant with the pace of innovation and activity in the industry.

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Space and Aeronautics subcommittee Chairman Don Beyer, D-Va., and Brian Babin, R-Texas, sent a letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Sept. 27.

The letter says that action by the FCC could interfere with the U.S. Orbital Debris Mitigation Standards and Practices set by NASA. The agency has been charged with reevaluating those standards and “action by the FCC at this time could lead to conflicting U.S. guidelines,” lawmakers said.

“Internationally, NASA has led coordination on space debris mitigation guidelines with other space agencies over several decades. This U.S. leadership in coordinating orbital debris guidelines provides a strong foundation for leading other areas of space sustainability,” the letter said. “Actions on orbital debris mitigation that stand apart from or conflict with federal government guidelines could lead to confusion that, in effect, undermines, rather than strengthens, national and international efforts to reduce and mitigate the risk of orbital debris.”

The FCC is set to hold an open meeting on Thursday and the orbital debris order its on its schedule to address.